ASHEVILLE, N.C. – UNC Asheville's Kenny George, at 7-foot-7 the nation's tallest college basketball player, will not play this year amid reports part of his right foot was amputated.
George needed surgery after contracting a staph infection, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported. ESPN.com said the 22-year-old player had surgery three weeks ago and is expected to remain in an Iowa hospital for at least another month.
When reached by phone Sunday by The Associated Press, UNC Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach wouldn't confirm the reports, saying he was respecting George's wish for privacy.
"This is a terrible setback for Kenny George that he's not going to be able to play basketball this year," Biedenbach said. "He's worked so hard from the time he was in high school and earlier to get to the point to do what he did last year."
Biedenbach said the senior first felt discomfort in his foot in August after attending a basketball camp in Las Vegas. When George returned to his native Chicago, a doctor recommended immediate surgery. George has undergone several operations since.
George's height and weight — he was listed at 360 pounds last season and wore size 26 shoes — is the result of an overactive pituitary gland. George, who stands 7-9 with shoes, could dunk flat-footed and towered over most players. But he had two major knee injuries, among other problems, and missed nearly three full seasons.
George was the Big South Conference's defensive player of the year after helping the Bulldogs win a school-record 23 games and reach the NIT last season. George averaged 12.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.3 blocks.
The Bulldogs, picked to finish ninth in the Big South without George and their starting backcourt from last season, began practice concerned for George's health.
"There's more to Kenny George than basketball," Biedenbach said. "The students at this school think the world of Kenny George outside of basketball. We're looking forward to him coming back second semester — that's what he wants to do — and complete his degree. At that point, we'd still like him to be a part of our basketball program and part of this school."