SALT LAKE CITY — Will he, or Will he not? That is the question the Utah Utes face as they prepare to face San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference Tournament Thursday in Las Vegas.
The status of Utah scoring and rebounding leader Will Clyburn is uncertain because of a bruised heel. Although the junior did practice Monday, he's still considered "day-to day" for the game against the Aztecs.
"He wants to play. He wants to be part of this week," said Utah coach Jim Boylen. "He's in pain. It's a difficult injury."
And a strange one at that.
Boylen described the soft-tissue injury as a bruise that will only get better with rest.
"The only thing that will heal it is time, and unfortunately this time of year you don't have time," he said.
Clyburn, who was named to the All-MWC second team, leads the Utes with 17 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. He's one of just two players in the league to rank among the top 10 in eight statistical categories.
The injury, though, has taken a toll on his effectiveness. Since missing the New Mexico game on Feb. 19, Clyburn has averaged just 5.8 points and 3.6 rebounds over limited action against TCU, Colorado State and UNLV.
In Saturday's 78-58 loss to the Rebels, Clyburn didn't play in the second half after going 0-for-6 from the field before the break.
Boylen said Clyburn's sore heel was to blame.
"It bothered him on Saturday. I thought it affected him and I thought it was in his best interest to not have him play in the second half," Boylen explained. "Obviously he wants to play and he wants to practice. Practice is very important for him."
Clyburn, he continued, is a terrific practice player who works hard and is a "gym rat" kind of guy.
Although Utah surprised New Mexico 62-60 in The Pit without Clyburn on Feb. 19, the Utes would much rather go to battle with him.
"We did have guys step up in that game and make plays. Can we consistently do that? I hope so if he's not with us," Boylen said. "What I'm hoping is he practices well, pain is minimal, he improves and he plays."
Utah (13-17, 6-10) at San Diego State (27-2, 14-2)
Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas
Thursday, 7 p.m. (MT)
TV: The Mtn.