North Texas had to wait a whole season for the opportunity to get Justin Patton into its lineup after he transferred from Grambling.
Turns out, the wait will be just a little bit longer.
The 6-foot-7 forward injured his knee in practice and will be out two to four weeks.
The injury was a tough blow not only for Patton, but also for UNT, which will face East Central (Okla.) in an exhibition game Thursday at the Super Pit.
“He was playing really well,” UNT head coach Tony Benford said. “He might have been in the starting lineup.”
The injury is one of two issues UNT has dealt with in the preseason. Shooting guard T.J. Taylor, who spent time at Oklahoma and Marquette before transferring to UNT, underwent surgery on his right shoulder recently to repair a torn labrum.
Taylor is sitting out as a transfer.
Patton led Grambling in both scoring (13.2 points a game) and rebounding (7.1 a game) in the 2010-11 season before he transferred to UNT.
Benford said that Patton went down without being touched during practice.
UNT is expected to be remarkably deep this season after returning seven players who averaged at least 7.0 points a game last season, including Chris Jones and Jordan Williams. Both sat out the second semester of last season after failing to meet academic requirements.
Point guard P.J. Hardwick and center Keith Coleman — a pair of newcomers — are expected to be major contributors.
The return of Williams could give UNT another option at small forward with Patton out.
Taylor would have been another player UNT could have used on the wing had he been ruled eligible. Once Taylor was told he had to sit out as a transfer, UNT moved quickly to schedule surgery that will have him ready well before the beginning of off-season workouts for the 2013-14 season.
“It was going to be the best thing for him to have surgery,” Benford. “He will be fine. We are hoping that he can be back in February.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .