ORU injury woes linger as Eagles fight for title
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Saturday, January 19, 2013
1/19/13 at 7:13 AM
While contending for a Southland Conference championship this season, Oral Roberts hoped to develop its next wave of players.
Update on the primary mission: ORU plays a Saturday road game at Sam Houston State. Six games into the conference season, the winner will be alone in second place in the Southland standings.
Update on the secondary mission: ORU redshirt freshman guards D.J. Jackson and Korey Billbury are gaining valuable experience in their rookie seasons. So is freshman forward Brandon Conley, whose role has increased since Steven Roundtree was injured prior to a Dec. 28 game at Memphis.
But injuries have wreaked havoc with the development of first-year freshmen Jorden Kaufman and Corbin Byford, who, before the season started, were projected to be key reserves.
Byford, limited to only 30 minutes of duty this season because of lingering health issues, isn't expected to make another court appearance until next season. Coach Scott Sutton said Byford will redshirt and called it the best decision for everyone.
"I think he felt like, and we agree as a staff, that if he is only going to play four or five or six minutes a game, he is much better served to redshirt and trade that first year for a fifth year," Sutton said.
Kaufman, the first ORU player to measure 7-foot or taller since Tom Prusator in 1982, has had trouble shaking a foot injury alternately described as a stress fracture or stress reaction. He has missed six of the last eight games.
"Next year we are going to depend on him a bunch," Sutton said. "We really thought coming in - and still do - that he is our future starting center. And he will be. But he is missing out on some opportunities to grow as a player because of his foot."
ORU's starting post player, Damen Bell-Holter, is a senior. Kaufman's apprenticeship so far: 11 game appearances and 6.6 minutes of floor time per game.
"Jorden, if we can get him back and he can stay healthy, we have got plenty of time," Sutton said when asked this week about Kaufman's development.
"Let's say he misses the next two weeks. We've still got 11 games, plus postseason, for him to gain some experience. He sat out for two or three weeks and came back and it's still bothering him. That's the biggest question is how is he going to feel when he comes back?"
Though not a rookie, Western Illinois transfer Obi Emegano is waiting to contribute next season. Sutton said Emegano (who helped Western Illinois knock ORU out of the Summit League tournament last season) is a special player.
Regarding current events, Sutton said his team is trying to win the Southland Conference regular season championship. And he said that means the Golden Eagles can't afford to drop games they should win.
Sam Houston State is saddled with a lackluster RPI (215), but the Bearkats have won eight of their last nine games and they are 4-1 against Southland competition.
ORU up next
At Sam Houston State
3:45 p.m. Saturday Radio: KYAL fm97.1
Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389