Hurricane basketball team still dealing with rash of injuries
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2013
2/06/13 at 6:20 AM
On Wednesday night, during an open-to-the-public practice session at the Reynolds Center, University of Tulsa basketball players scrimmaged at the west end of the court.
At the east end, working alone on a variety of rehabilitation exercises, was Golden Hurricane forward Rashad Smith.
When moving in straight lines, he seemed fine.
When gliding laterally - putting pressure on his sore left leg - his gait was affected. It looked painful.
No one in the TU camp has specifically divulged the nature of Smith's injury, but it appears to have been a stress fracture and it has ruined what could have been a significant season for the 6-foot-7 sophomore from Plano, Texas.
During four August exhibition contests in Canada, Smith averaged 16.3 points on 63 percent shooting. Through the first four games of the regular season, he averaged 14.5 points. But when TU hosted Jackson State on Nov. 21, Smith was outfitted in street clothes - and a brace on his lower left leg. He hasn't played since. On Wednesday, the brace was still there.
"It's one of those injuries that you can't rush back from," Smith said. "If you do too much too early, you'll break the whole leg.
"Everything happens for a reason. That's why I don't worry about it too much. But, yeah, it's been tough. Very frustrating."
Injuries have profoundly impacted Danny Manning's first season as the Tulsa coach. Smith, freshman forward D'Andre Wright (with a left-leg injury similar to Smith's), redshirt freshman forward Brandon Swannegan (foot and knee injuries) and junior guard Pat Swilling Jr. (wrist) have been inactive for a combined total of 42 games.
"You adjust and move on," Manning said. "You can't dwell on it. No matter who is available or who isn't, expectations don't change."
On Saturday, TU plays its 21st game - a 1 p.m. Conference USA contest at Memphis. The Golden Hurricane is 12-9 overall and 4-3 in league play. Unless there is a dramatic change in his status, Smith will be stuck on the bench for an 18th consecutive game.
Swannegan and Swilling are healthy now, but Wright hasn't played since late December. He practiced on Wednesday, but on a limited basis.
Following Wednesday night's C-USA win at East Carolina, Memphis is 17-3, 6-0 and has an 11-game win streak.
"In Canada, when D'Andre and Rashad were healthy and playing - those guys were game-changers. We got a good view of our potential as a team," TU freshman guard James Woodard said. "Brandon Swannegan and Pat - those guys missed some games, too, and they're also game-changers.
"The injuries have been tough for our team. I think about how things would be if we had all of those guys healthy."
It doesn't appear that Smith will play again this season, but Manning says Smith's fate has not been determined. If there is no return to action, the 2012-13 season would qualify as having been a redshirt season. Smith would return in 2013-14 as a third-year sophomore.
Manning certainly can relate to the frustration of coping with injuries. During his 15-season NBA career, he missed more than 170 games - the equivalent of more than two full seasons - because of three major knee injuries and a back injury.
"I was able to stay enthused about rehab because each day, I was one step closer to getting back on the floor," Manning said. "You have to do different things to stay involved. When you watch the game, you think, 'When I do get back out there, how I can do this better and do that better?'
"That's how I tried to look at the game when I was out. But sure, of course, you always want to be out there playing. It's tough to watch from the bench. You want to help your team."
TU up next
At Memphis 1 p.m. Saturday
TV: CBSSN-249 Radio: KRMG am740, fm102.3
Original Print Headline: TU still dealing with injuries
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397