Men’s basketball devastated by injuries



The IVCC Men’s Basketball team defends against a lay-up in a game against UW-Rock County on Nov. 3

Josh Dillon, IVLeader Sports Editor

It’s something every coach thinks about but never wants to do. After a game against Rock Valley College on Nov. 15, Eagles men’s basketball coach Tommy Canale told his players that they weren’t playing their next game.

Canale, with the help of his assistant coaches, made the decision based on his team’s injury status. He was down to having six players with only four of them at 100%. The team had lost one of their captains Michael Murray in the game to a high ankle sprain. Another key player, Alec Schwab, also injured his ankle. X-rays showed no sign of a fracture but an MRI was inconclusive, causing the team to be cautious in his rehab. Another MRI is scheduled to get more details once his swelling goes down.

Fully prepared to forfeit if Waubonsee refused to reschedule, his players were furious at the coach’s idea; they wanted to go out there and give it their all for a chance at another win, but Canale stood strong to protect his players from more injury, those not at 100% and the ones that were.

It’s difficult for a coach to accept his team’s situation enough to be ready to forfeit a game. Canale said about that discussion, “I was sick to my stomach for them, but we had to change what we do. We didn’t have the depth [to keep the same tempo], and we’re in the midst of [slowing the game down]. We’ll change back once it’s finished and those players return. We had to make sure they knew it was a ‘team-first’ decision.”

Other players who are returning this week to action include Michael Winkler (mononucleosis), Nick Finney (fractured rib), and Billy Gaull (wrist). Another player who was promoted to action was former team manager Nick Smudzinski, who tried out for the team during open gyms but didn’t originally make the team.

Smudzinski said about the meeting when Coach Canale said he was being promoted, “I was on Cloud 9, on top of the world. I wasn’t expecting to play at all this year; it’ll be pretty sweet. Obviously, you would never hope for a teammate to become injured, but I have to look at this as an opportunity for me to show [Canale] what I’ve got.”

Canale emphasized that the team still holds the same goals as they started with, but the path to get to those goals may change depending on the situation. His team will still be aggressive towards the Conference and Regional Championships, and he hopes the experience the younger players are getting will keep the team in a position to pursue those titles.

“They can make it there. It may be more difficult, but the learning the young players get will season them into better players. I tell them ‘we don’t have to win right now, but it’s not the end of the world if we lose.’”

Schwab and Murray are both still classified as out indefinitely. In a best case scenario, Schwab will return to the lineup on Dec. 16 against Aurora JV at home. Murray’s ankle sprain is a bit bleaker, placing a best case scenario on his return Jan. 7 against South Suburban. Canale’s hoping that the team’s situation will give him a stronger depth in his lineup, allowing him to become a “nightmare for opposing teams” in terms of matchup problems.

It’s difficult for a team struck by injuries to stay positive, especially when they put a lot of effort into getting into basketball shape. Gaull’s wrist injury happened in the final game of the exhibition season, before the start of the regular season. “I’m not worried about returning back to the flow of the game, there may be some nerves, but I’ll use that adrenaline to my advantage.”