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Door still open for IU basketball center Joey Brunk to return during 2020-21 season

Joey Brunk’s back surgery Wednesday was successful, Archie Miller said in a Zoom press conference Sunday, and the Indiana coach still holds out hope that his veteran center will return to play at some point this season.

“Joe’s doing well,” Miller said. “Joe’s, right now, focused in on getting in his recovery and then Joe can get into his rehab and move forward in to his deal. We’ll see where his timeframe is. I don’t think it’s out of the question that (he could return) this year. Will he be out all year? I don’t know. In the month of January, he’s going to give himself a chance to play. If he can’t, he can’t. He’s obviously got another year to come back regardless.”

Brunk started 31 of the Hoosiers’ 32 games last season, averaging 6.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and shooting 52.2 percent from the field. Miller said he practiced extensively throughout the fall but had some lower back pain, and toward the beginning of the season he started to experience tingling in his back and the Hoosiers kept him out of the lineup when games began.

“It was never to the point that he couldn’t run jump or walk, but it was concerning,” Miller said. “With our doctors and all the advice that we had, we sat him out at the beginning. As we headed to the Maui Invitational (in Asheville, N.C.) We thought he might be able to play there, we hoped that he could. But upon returning, he didn’t get any better. We gave him the month of December to see if he could kick back in and see if he could get some games in and see how it would do and see if we could get him more comfortable, but it became apparent the symptoms weren’t going away.”

Brunk’s absence has forced the Hoosiers to rely even more heavily on Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson, their only options at the center spot. Jackson-Davis is averaging 32.8 minutes per game and Thompson 28.9.

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