Portland State basketball is revving up, preparing to build on last year’s sturdy finish behind head coach Ken Bone. But even before the exhibition against Western Oregon University tips off this Saturday, the second-year coach has had his work cut out for him.
First it was the loss of star forward Anthony Washington. Washington has a newborn and has chosen to forgo his last year of eligibility as a basketball player to focus on being a father.
And now, before the team has played even a single game, PSU’s injured list is reading more like one that belongs in football. Eight Vikings have been struck with ailments ranging from the nagging to the incapacitating.
”We’ve had anywhere from two to six players out every practice,” explained coach Bone, who has had to alter many of his preseason plans and expectations.
”Are we ready to play a game?” Bone asked rhetorically. “No,” he chuckled. “But we have no choice. There’s a game scheduled.” When asked about the game plan Saturday, the coach said he’d like to simply “do it without any injuries.”
Those sidelined include both starters and bench players, including freshman forward Kyle Coston, who is out three weeks with an injured elbow. Junior guard Deonte Huff and junior Scott Morrison, who at 6-foot-11 is the team’s only legitimate center, are both out with back problems. It continues with Tyrell Mora, a sophomore guard who’s having trouble with his knees, junior guard Dupree Lucas (muscle strain), junior starting point guard Ryan Sommer (groin pull) and junior guard Sean Smith (foot). Senior guard Paul Hafford is also out two to four weeks with a sprained ankle.
Despite all the injuries, some of those Vikings should suit up against Western Oregon, though at this point it isn’t clear who will and will not be ready. “Of those guys, probably four or five of them will be playing but they are definitely banged up,” coach Bone said.
More problematic than the lack of healthy bodies, perhaps, is the lack of preparation and practice that the injuries have imposed on the team.
”As far as being organized about how we’re going to play on both ends of the court, we are a long way from being there,” Bone admitted. “The guys aren’t getting the reps that they need at their positions.”
Such news would appear disappointing to coach Bone, who was excited to build upon the progress of his first season at PSU. “Everything was brand new [after that first year] and not only to the players, but none of us coaches had really worked together as a group either,” he said. “It takes time to mold and create a system. People always talk about ‘team chemistry.’ Well, it’s the same with a staff.”
After pressing through that transition, the new coach had high expectations, as returning players would be more familiar with his system, and he with their strengths and weaknesses.
Some of Bone’s plans include shaping the Vikings towards a more up-tempo style, and though the recent setbacks have had effect, the coach has not been completely stifled.
”We’ve been able to work on [the up-tempo style] some. We’ve been forced to because a lot of the guys that have been injured [or lost] are our bigs,” he said. “We’ve been working on a lot of perimeter stuff and full court, but as far as guys working on playing their own position, we’re still behind in that area.”
But despite all the troubles, coach Bone is confident his team will persevere.
”I’m not worried about [a possible slow start]. As a team, we all understand that we’ve all been there every day and seen the injuries, and I think we understand that it might take a few more days or weeks than we anticipated, but we’ll be able to bounce back.”