By Dan Hiner
Last season, things didn’t seem to go right for the Youngstown State University men’s basketball team. With the 2015-16 season about to begin, it seems that the injury bug has already bit the Penguins young roster.
With basketball season tipping off on Saturday, the Penguins’ best player on the team, Bobby Hain, is preparing to return to the team following an injury to his shooting hand that kept him out the entire preseason. YSU head coach Jerry Slocum said Hain returned to practice this week, but he needs to recondition before a difficult start to their schedule.
“He’s been back … Thursday of last week was his first day,” Slocum said. “We got a lot of work to do this week. It’s one of those things — normally by this time in the preseason, you’re chomping at the bit to get playing. For me, I wish we had another week. It’s a tough start at Kent [State University], you have Toledo here and then you go down and play a good Florida Golf Coast [team] and Bowling Green.”
“Our first five are really, really challenging. It’d be nice to have that senior leadership with a young group … a new group. Not to have his voice everyday in practice, not to have him around, set us back.”
The team also lost freshman forward Bryce Nickels to a stress fracture. With two players unable to go early in the preseason, the Penguins are prepared to play several young players that joined the team this past offseason.
With Hain trying to improve his condition heading into the season opener against Kent State University, Slocum doesn’t know who his impact players are this year.
“I think the thing that’s concerning for us is we don’t really know who that is yet,” Slocum said. “It would be different if you had a couple other juniors in there that had some game experience. We’re literally feeling our way. If you had a little bit of game experience and a little knowledge in terms of who that might be … I mean you’re a freshman and a sophomore at the point guard spot, you’re a sophomore at the two [shooting guard], start probably a freshman at the three [small forward], then you have a senior who was probably one of the best players in the league with Bobby at your four [power forward] but you put another inexperienced guy there. I think we got answers, I just don’t know them. I don’t know what the answers are right now.”
Hain said his shooting hand has healed, but the team is trying to get more cardio into his daily routine and catching the ball and rebounding has been an issue while he was injured. Hain said this week should allow him to get readjusted before traveling to Kent State.
“It’s good. Coach [Slocum] was happy to have me back,” Hain said. “It’s going to be my fourth practice back so I’m excited. This is going to be a huge week for me. I got to get back into game shape. The scrimmage was huge for me against [University of] Akron. So I’m ready to go.”
“I’m at 75 percent right now. This week will probably finish up the rest of it. They have me working out on the bike and doing sprints, but when you’re going out there shooting and rebounding it’s just not the same. This is a huge week for me and the team.”