Perth Wildcats centre Matt Knight will miss the start of the NBL season after having surgery to repair damaged cartilage in his right ankle.
Knight was last season named in the All-NBL first team and is a crucial part of the Wildcats’ plans for this season.
But his latest setback will keep him on the sidelines for up to 10 weeks.
Knight suffered the injury when he fell awkwardly and rolled the ankle at training this week.
His absence will be a major blow to the Wildcats’ chances of dethroning three-times champions New Zealand.
Coach Trevor Gleeson said Knight, who signed a new three-year contract in May, remained a key part of his plans.
“It’s a bit of a blow and it’s a new team, and we want to build the team around Matt,” Gleeson said.
“We signed him up for a long-term deal and he’s one of the foundation players.
“If he’s not on court, it’s pretty hard to build that thing around.
“We need a healthy Matt Knight to be successful.”
Gleeson has already started looking for an injury replacement player in second-tier leagues around the country.
Inexperienced big man Tom Jervis is on the roster and the Wildcats will also consider using smaller players like Jesse Wagstaff and Shawn Redhage at centre.
“I’ve got no doubt our guys can step up and replace Matt,” Gleeson said.“It gives us a chance to play a lot more small ball, which means we can stretch the other teams out a fair bit.
“We’ll just keep on fishing around to see who’s available.”
The Wildcats play their first game of the pre-season campaign when they take on the State Basketball League All-Stars at the WA Basketball Centre tomorrow.It is the WA club’s only pre-season game on home soil before the NBL season opener against Adelaide at Perth Arena on October 11.