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