The Eagles’ men’s basketball team would be very different — and probably better. My column on how they’re handling their injury furlough is here. But what about what if? Having Nelson still paired with Keith DeWitt, considering they would have gotten better at playing — and dominating — together, probably would have turned USI into an almost unbeatable team. Why, just imagine if their numbers had continued as they were when Nelson went out for the season (11.9 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, 61 percent field-goal shooting) and DeWitt now (14.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists). In fact, their stats may have IMPROVED as defenses drove themselves nuts trying to guard both of them. And having McCamey as the backup point guard would have meant that starter Lawrence Thomas didn’t need to play so many minutes (he’s averaging 29.5 per game) and, therefore, would have been more rested. The bench may have been stronger, too, with Evan Brinkmeyer playing his natural position of shooting guard more often. But USI fans can only dream. You have to go with what you’ve got.
What the Eagles really need at the moment is a player or two suddenly becoming dominant off the bench — a difference maker in a game every time he steps on the court. Manny Ogunfolu may be headed in that direction. He’s no longer hesitant about driving to the hoop or diving in for rebounds. It’s just too bad it took so long. He’s got to come up to speed quickly now that the regular season has one game remaining and the GLVC Tournament at the Ford Center looms next week. But his 6-foot-7 height and long arms could bedevil many an opponent in the postseason.
In Ogunfolu’s case, the injury to Nelson may have been a blessing. Manny is needed. Now he has to make himself indispensable.