I brought up something on Friday that coach Rodney Watson mentioned Thursday night after his USI men’s basketball team lost at Wisconsin-Parkside: what are the adjustments you’re going to make to make up for the absence of big man Aaron Nelson, now out with season-ending knee injury?
He went off — not in anger, but what sounded like exasperation.
“Every team has guys who have hot nights or get in foul trouble,” he said. “You always have changes. You are always adjusting.”
But this is a big adjustment — making up for a 6-foot-8, 249-pound hole in your inside game. Keith DeWitt, at 6-10, 220 pounds, and Taylor Wischmeier, at 6-8, 220 pounds, won’t be mistaken for Aaron Nelson. So USI will have to change how it attacks the basket and gets rebounds. But there’s some precedent for that. When DeWitt hurt his knee and sat for more than three weeks at the start of the season, Nelson suddenly found himself thrust into the starting lineup; he had been coming off the bench behind Wischmeier, who at the time was averaging around 20 points per game. Now the situation is reversed and Wischmeier has to rediscover what made him great in November and early December.
Whatever Watson and his assistant coaches come up with, they’re overall philosophy will not change. “It’s about layups and free throws,” Watson said Thursday night. But he’s said this all the time this year and last year and the year before that. The easy baskets underneath the hoop, the uncontested shots at the foul line — sink a lot of those and it’s a safe bet few teams will beat you.