NASHVILLE – Tennessee sophomore center Duke Crews will be sidelined indefinitely by a recently diagnosed heart condition
Crews definitely will miss the Volunteers' matchup with Western Kentucky (7-2) in Nashville on Saturday night at the Sommet Center, but his status beyond that is uncertain.
The school didn't disclose details of Crews' condition, but coach Bruce Pearl said he is optimistic Crews will return at some point.
"It is scary," Pearl said before the Vols (8-1) began practice Friday night. "I've known for a little longer than most. Fortunately, we didn't have an incident. I'm hopeful after talking with the doctors. If anybody can beat something like this, it is Duke. He is a tough, tough guy."
At 6 feet 7 and 233 pounds, Crews is one of the few players who can offer an inside presence for the perimeter-oriented Vols. He also is their best post defender. Slowed by an ankle injury early, he has started the past two games, scoring 10 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the Vols' 98-70 win over Louisiana-Lafayette and adding eight points and four boards in the Vols' 76-70 win at Chattanooga.
Crews played a major role in Tennessee's run to the Sweet 16 last season, starting 18 games and averaging 8.4 points and 5.1 rebounds. He also had a team-high 32 blocks.
"We are all really upset for Duke," senior point guard Jordan Howell said. "We don't know all the details, but we've got a big void to fill. Duke was probably our best rebounder."
Crews' absence probably means freshman center Brian Williams (6-10/267) will be added back to the rotation. Williams saw action in the first six games, averaging 11.0 minutes and 4.3 rebounds per game.
"Brian is going to play a huge role for us," Howell said. "He has got to step up. But we are all going to have to step up collectively. Everybody has to help out with rebounding."
That includes Arizona transfer J.P. Prince, a 6-7 guard who is eligible to play his first game against Western Kentucky.
Crews, who is undergoing treatment and more testing, wasn't made available for comment. A recent echocardiogram revealed his ailment. He sat in street clothes and watched the practice.
Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.