Before we get started, let it be known that the injuries to J. D. Collins and Mike Gansey
aren't the sole reason for WVU's poor play of late. Head coach John Beilein
and his team aren't looking for excuses, and certainly aren't saying that their January record of 2-4 can be blamed on the fact that these two players seem to be spending more time in the trainers' room than on the practice floor. However, there's no denying that Collins and Gansey aren't performing at peak efficiency, and that is certainly a contributing factor in WVU's recent skid.
Collins, who hasn't been healthy all year, has been piling hurt on top of hurt. He started out the season with a painful case of plantar fasciitis, which is a painful foot ailment that is difficult to recover from while stress is continually placed on the affected area. True to his nature, Collins never complains about the injury, but it has certainly been a hindrance to his play.
Collins shows the pain
Collins next sprained an ankle and a wrist in the Villanova game, which limited his mobility and ball handling ability. While the tough Texan taped up the ankle and played through it, the wrist problem severely hindered his ability to change hands on the dribble and hold the ball securely – obviously big parts of the game for a point guard. And just when he seemed to be recovering from those problems, Collins ran into another obstacle, in the form of seven-foot, 260-pound Boston College center Nate Doornekamp
, who set a blind side screen that knocked Collins off his feet and out of the game against the Eagles.
"We were trying to pick up full court, and I had made a steal the play before, so he did what a big man is supposed to do. He came up and set a solid screen and I didn't know it was coming. I was opened up, and he got me pretty good in my shoulder and my ribs. He knocked the wind out of me a little bit.
"My ankle and wrist are still tender because they haven't healed all the way. I'm still getting treatment to try to get it healed up."
Collins gives a rueful laugh when asked about the plantar fasciitis, only admitting that it still bothers him. However, anyone who has ever suffered through that ailment knows the pain that simple walking can bring, and has a great appreciation for how the junior has to battle just to get on the court and play.
It might be quicker, in fact, to list what isn't hurting on Collins than what is.
"My legs," Collins noted, "aren't that tired. We have been going up and down a lot, but I feel o.k. there."
That's a small blessing, but until Collins gets back to 100%, or at least within shouting distance, WVU's offense will likely continue to struggle with the missed reads that have plagued the squad of late.
Collins isn't the only player on the injury list. Mike Gansey, the catalyst for WVU's early offensive success, has been slowed by two injuries, both suffered in practice, which have kept the high flying junior much closer to the ground.
The first was a deep thigh bruise that plagued him through a good portion of WVU's early schedule. Playing with a wrap and padding thicker than a down pillow, Gansey's explosive leaping ability was severely curtailed in several games. Unfortunately, the injury is in an exposed area that often draws contact, which certainly doesn't aid in the healing process.
Like Collins, Gansey then added to his ailment list by injuring a knee in practice before the Notre Dame game. Against the Irish, Gansey gutted it out, but was noticeably hampered. He grabbed just four rebounds, and was noticeably slower on defense, which no doubt contributed to the Irish' early rain of threes that proved to be the difference in the game.
Unfortunately for WVU, there aren't many options available to combat this problem. Walk on point guard Nick Patella could have definitely helped, but his career was ended by recurring concussions, leaving all the backup point guard work to true freshman Darris Nichols. And no one off the bench comes close to Gansey's all around game. Until Collins and Gansey heal and return to their normal effectiveness, the Mountaineers are likely to continue to struggle.
While they haven't been hit with the catastrophic injuries suffered by the women's team, the Mountaineer men's basketball team has definitely been hampered by the hurts sustained by two starters.