Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Injuries Attempting to Derail Sacred Heart's Season Before It Even Begins

We're less than three weeks away from the first jump ball against Yale, yet injuries are already attempting to erode Sacred Heart's depth. Two players coming off surgery in the offseason, Chris Evans (meniscus) and Justin Swidowski (shoulder), haven't been cleared to fully practice as of today. As far as their prognosis is concerned, Dave Bike was unfortunately vague when asked about the status of his injured players at the Northeast Conference (NEC) Media Day in Brooklyn, NY.

"He hasn't been scrimmaging, so he hasn't had a full practice yet with full contact," said Bike when asked about Swidowski's health. "I guess there is a [timetable for his return], but I'll leave it up to the players and to the training staff. I don't really get involved with that."

In regards to Evans, Bike added, "He was rehabbing [his knee], and then he did participate for a practice or two, and then it swelled up. Hopefully, [Swidowski and Evans] will be back by [November 10 vs. Yale], but who knows."

Even if both players make an appearance early in the season, one has to wonder if they'll be anywhere close to 100%. Their complete health is highly unlikely, which unfortunately forces other players to step up in their place if necessary. Right now, Bike is expecting big things from junior Louis Montes, who's coming off a season where he averaged 7.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

"He's a key. Not only is he in great shape, he stopped in practice a couple times to change his shirt to get a second set of practice gear," said Bike. "He's pushing himself so much, he's sweating. So he's playing harder and playing better."

Even with a sudden emergence from Montes, others would need to step up. Whether it's Phil Gaetano, Evan Kelley - who is currently saddled with a bruised kneecap - or freshmen De'Aires Tate and Tevin Falzon, the prospects for Sacred Heart's season go decidedly down if Swidowski and Evans can't compete at the highest level.

Of course, that remains to be seen, but it certainly isn't encouraging that Bike doesn't know if either guy will be ready on November 10th. If Sacred Heart fans are enthusiasic about a Pioneer run towards their first ever NEC title, they better hope to see a signficant contribution from Evans and Swidowski.

If not, it could be another tough year at the Pitt Center.

Ryan Peters covers Northeast Conference and Sacred Heart men's basketball on Big Apple Buckets and Pioneer Pride. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Shane Gibson Finally Getting National Recognition

It's been another quiet offseason for the Sacred Heart men's basketball program in the mainstream media.  Other than the occasional piece on Dave Bike's lengthy coaching career and this Shane Gibson post by Angela Lento of Collegeinsider.com, I can't recall any media outlets outside of Connecticut running a profile piece on a SHU player.

Today, however, Jeff Eisenberg of the Yahoo Sports college basketball blog The Dagger wrote a fantastic article about Shane Gibson.  It's the first time someone from a major media outlet is profiling one of the most overlooked, yet immensely talented guards in the country.  Jeff's piece is an absolute must read for any SHU fan.

Frankly, it was refreshing to read about Gibson's competitive drive and how the lack of national attention he receives has continued to motivate him on a daily basis.  It's no wonder the SHU coaches have marveled to me about how hard Gibson works on his game and how much time he spends in the weight room pushing to get better.  During my end-of-the-season interview with Coach Bike last March, Bike clearly implied that he wished other SHU players would work as hard as Gibson did on and off the court.

Even with Gibson blossoming into a NEC Player of the Year candidate early last season, I would have considered it a wild long-shot if Gibson found his way into the NBA. Now, nothing would surprise me.  Gibson's NBA jersey could become the first piece of NBA merchandise I purchase in many years, since I forked over $40 for a green Dominique Wilkins Boston Celtics jersey!

Before Gibson begins his endeavor into profession basketball though, it's my hope that his hard work will be rewarded with SHU making a run at the NEC title.  Yes, it's a minute possibility at this point, especially with LIU, Robert Morris, and Wagner returning most of their starters, but this is why they play the games.

And I can't think of a better way for Gibson to end his collegiate career, by cutting down the nets after leading the Pioneers to their first ever NCAA tournament.  It would be a storybook ending for the greatest basketball player ever to put on the red and white of Sacred Heart University.

Ryan Peters covers Northeast Conference and Sacred Heart men's college basketball on Pioneer Pride and Big Apple Buckets.  You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride