USC's Isaiah Collier set to miss 4-6 weeks because of a hand injury

Los Angeles, California November 9, 2023-USC's Isaiah Collier and head coach Andy Enfield.
USC's Isaiah Collier, left, talks to coach Andy Enfield during a game against Cal State Bakersfield at Galen Center in November. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

USC starting point guard Isaiah Collier will miss four to six weeks because of a right hand injury, the school announced Thursday, stripping the struggling Trojans of one of their best offensive playmakers during a critical stretch of the conference schedule.

Collier, the top-ranked freshman in the country, sustained the injury in a loss to Washington State on Wednesday, subbing out with 12 minutes 12 seconds remaining in the second half. Collier, USC’s second-leading scorer, is averaging 15.4 points while shooting 50.6% from the field. He leads the team with 66 assists.

Read more: USC falls apart at the end and loses to Washington State, can't build on winning streak

The injury could open a larger role for fellow freshman Bronny James, who has been playing on a minutes restriction as he returns from a cardiac arrest suffered during the summer. James returned to the court Dec. 10 against Long Beach State. In eight appearances, the son of Lakers star LeBron James is averaging 5.9 points per game with 2.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals. His career-high 20 minutes came against Oregon State on Dec. 30 when he also scored a career-best 15 points.

Despite a recent shooting slump — a combined 0-for-7 from the field for two points in the last two games — James is a valuable asset to USC’s defense as one of the team’s top perimeter defenders and has already been trusted to close games in Collier’s place.

“I think all players go through stretches where they make and miss shots,” coach Andy Enfield said Wednesday of James’ recent scoring struggles. “When we look at a player’s performance, we look at their defense, their energy, their rebounding, their playmaking. You can affect winning without scoring the ball and all our guys, and Bronny in particular, he’s capable of doing that.”

Needing wins to boost a flimsy postseason resume, the Trojans (8-8, 2-3 Pac-12) play their next three games on the road: Colorado on Saturday, No. 8 Arizona on Wednesday and Arizona State on Jan. 20. USC’s next home game is against rival UCLA on Jan. 27.

If he returns at the end of the current timeline, Collier could still get back in time to play against UCLA in the rivals’ second game of the year on Feb. 24 at Pauley Pavilion in the final three weeks of the regular season.

Read more: An emotional LeBron James watches Bronny make USC debut 5 months after cardiac arrest

Collier, a projected top pick in the NBA draft if he were to declare, leaves another hole in USC’s thinning roster. Redshirt senior Joshua Morgan missed Wednesday’s game because of an upper respiratory illness, and Enfield did not have further details on a timeline for recovery. Fifth-year guard Boogie Ellis has been hampered by a lingering hamstring injury.

“At the end of the day, nobody feels sorry for us,” Ellis said Wednesday after he limped through much of the game against Washington State to finish with a team-high 18 points. “So we just gotta keep working, keep pushing and go get some wins.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.