Senior Sports Reporter
The Blue Hens’ slow start to the 2020-2021 season can be attributed to one glaring issue: the injury bug.
Ahead of their weekend series at William & Mary, the Blue Hens were already fighting injuries to key players. Sophomore forward Aleks Novakovich had been out with a lingering stress reaction in his foot and senior guard Kevin Anderson had been out with an ankle injury.
The amount of injuries forced the athletic directors of Delaware and William & Mary to consult the conference office, which resulted in the postponement of Sunday’s matchup between the two teams. The game was delayed to a later, undetermined date out of concern for the Blue Hens’ health and safety.
The list of injured Blue Hens had grown even larger after Saturday’s 67-62 loss to William & Mary, as freshman forward Andrew Carr and senior guard Ryan Allen also went down.
Carr injured his knee after a collision in the middle of the first half, which has since been classified as an MCL sprain. Coach Martin Ingelsby, who talked to reporters on Monday, expressed that he felt a sense of relief that the injury was not worse.
“He was out of it on the sideline; he had to get a trash can; he thought he was gonna get sick; he was really white as a ghost in the face,” Coach Ingelsby said. “Our luck recently, I’m hoping for the best but fearing the worst.”
Carr, who had seen an increased role in the Blue Hens rotation, will be evaluated daily and will be a game-time decision ahead of this upcoming Saturday’s matchup against Hofstra.
The string of bad luck for Delaware did not stop there, as Allen injured his ankle with just under four minutes left to play. Coach Ingelsby clarified that Allen had suffered a sprained ankle and would also be a game-time decision for Saturday’s matchup.
Allen, who is averaging 14.6 points per game (PPG) and 2.5 assists per game (APG), had already been playing through a broken toe. Coach Ingelsby praised Allen’s toughness as he attempted to play through both injuries against William & Mary.
“If there’s anybody on the team who’s played through injuries and played through pain it’s Ryan Allen throughout his career,” Coach Ingelsby said. “He’s hobbling around just to try and give us another body out there.”
Coach Ingelsby reiterated his intentions to play this weekend’s series against Hofstra despite the lack of bodies for the Blue Hens, but also made it clear that his top priority is to keep his players safe and healthy.
Senior guard Kevin Anderson, who injured his ankle in last Saturday’s win against the College of Charleston, had missed the last two games due to the injury. According to Coach Ingelsby, Anderson will be visiting an ankle specialist to gauge the severity of the injury as well as the timetable for his return.
The Blue Hens head into this weekend’s series against Hofstra with an overall record of 3-5 and an in-conference record of 1-2. With Allen and Carr being game-time decisions, the Blue Hens could be down to seven players, five being scholarship players and two being walk-ons.
The repercussions of the increased amount of injuries for the program has given Coach Ingelsby no choice but to modify the team’s practice schedule.
Coach Ingelsby told reporters that the team did not run any high intensity practices last week to avoid the potential for more injuries, as well as using his assistant coaches to mimic defenders so that the team stayed sharp without the risk of injury.
The outlook for the season may look grim to some due to the amount of injuries to key players, however, it has provided opportunities for young players such as freshman guard Gianmarco Arletti to step up and make the most out of their minutes.
With the lack of bodies, it will be important for redshirt senior forward Dylan Painter to expand his role in the offense. So far this season, Painter is averaging 11.3 PPG and 9.4 rebounds per game (RPG) while also putting up two double-doubles on the season. Coach Ingelsby made his intentions clear that Painter’s role in the offense would certainly increase.
“We want to continue to force feed him the basketball, you know, some nights he might have to get 15 to 18 shots,” Coach Ingelsby said. “We gotta get him touches; we gotta put [Painter] in different places, get all over the backboard, but we need him to be a double-double guy every night.”
Coach Ingelsby even compared his vision for Painter’s new role in the offense to Iowa Hawkeyes standout and first-team All-American, Luka Garza. Painter’s versatility, presence down low and ability to get to the foul line provides the potential for a modified Blue Hens offense that differentiates from the perimeter-centric offense that is prevalent for the team when at full strength.
The Blue Hens started the season with two new transfers in North Carolina Central transfer Reggie Gardner and Eastern Carolina University (ECU) transfer Logan Curtis. However, both have been battling injuries that have kept them out of play thus far. ECU transfer Curtis’ season unfortunately ended due to a season-ending Achilles injury before the season had started. Luckily for the Blue Hens, Gardner, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, is expected to return to play and begin his career at Delaware sometime in late January to early February.
Despite the sheer amount of injuries to the Blue Hens, the conference-only schedule provides an opportunity for the team to hang around until they get to full strength for a potential conference tournament run.
The shorthanded Blue Hens take on the preseason Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) conference favorites this weekend as Hofstra visits the Bob Carpenter Center for the weekend series.