Winder staying positive

Sophomore guard Anson Winder was a potential starter coming into this season, and certainly a likely important contributor for the Cougars, especially as a defensive stopper. But, an ankle injury before the start of the season kept him from playing much, and his season was in jeopardy of ending early. However, he's slowly been working his way back and is very positive about his situation.

When Anson Winder sprained his ankle badly prior to the start of this season, it was, as he said, brutal timing.

"Just my luck, it was the day before we started our individual workouts, so right before we started doing team stuff, that's when I sprained it," he said.

Winder didn't play in five of the team's first 11 games, and when he did play, it was sparingly. In fact, he played double-digit minutes in only two of the first 18 games, and both times were in huge blowouts against overmatched opponents.

Limited playing time was one thing, but at one point it even seemed as though he was going to have to take a break from basketball for a while.

"I had some torn ligaments and for a while they didn't know if I was gonna have to have surgery or if it was gonna just heal just over time," Winder said.

A few months after hurting his ankle he went to see a foot specialist because it just wasn't getting better. He was told that if there was no progress within the next few weeks, he would possibly need surgery. So, Winder took the time to rest his ankle.

"Once I just stayed off of it completely and put my foot in a boot, then it started feeling a lot better," he said.

Given what Chris Collinsworth and Stephen Rogers went though, with neither able to fully recover from their injuries and both having to quit basketball as a result, Winder's progress was a relief.

As for when he began to feel like his old self, he said, "Definitely early, I think that Utah game when Coach sent me out there and I was able to guard and get out and run. It felt good. I felt back to my old self, and just from there I felt like my ankle started to feel better and I was starting to get in better shape and get back to my game, and I feel like that was definitely the turning point."

While he only got double-digit minutes twice in the first 18 games, he has played double-digit minutes in 10 of the 11 games since then. He even started the February 2 home game against Santa Clara, and while he hasn't had any other starts this season after starting 15 games last season, he's taking it all in stride.

"Unfortunately I wasn't there to really battle and prove myself in the beginning," he said regarding competing for a starting spot before the season. "I kind of had to work my way back in, so for me to say I would be starting [had I not hurt my ankle], it wouldn't be accurate, and I wasn't able to really work and compete like Coach would have wanted me to. I mean, I'm happy with my progress now and I'm slowly working my way back in and hopefully getting more and more minutes, so I can't complain."

Prior to his setback before the season, Winder had focused on improving some specific facets of his game in the offseason. One key area he worked on was his shooting, and he said he put up as many shots as he could last summer. Another area he worked on was his ball-handling.

In addition to working on some physical aspects of basketball, he also worked on the mental aspect of the game.

"I feel like as the years go by you develop on your own as a player just from playing the game and just practicing so much, that I just felt like I needed to get better at my decision-making and the smarts of the game, and I feel like I've done that," he said. "I worked hard over the summer just thinking more and analyzing basketball and just trying to raise my IQ, and I feel like it's gotten better but it's not where I want it to be yet."

Given how he's had to work back from injury, it's difficult for him to evaluate how he's progressed in the areas he worked on during the offseason. While he is playing more than he did earlier this season, he is certainly not playing starter's minutes, and his stats this year are fairly modest. He's only scored 10 points in one game all year, but he's also come off the bench and provided a spark in some way during various games.

"I would love to say yeah, all the work I've done over the summer is showing now, but it's hard because I was out for three or four months," Winder said. "So I definitely do try to take what I've learned and just continue to use it in practice and use it in games, and through the help of my coaches and my teammates hopefully I can just keep getting better as the games go by."

It may not be until next season that Winder takes on a bigger role and makes big strides in his game. But regardless of the fact that he isn't playing as big a role this year as he might have had he never sprained his ankle, Winder in enjoying being back out on the court with his teammates.

"Oh, I love it. I mean, these are the days and the games and the weeks that you live for, especially as a little kid growing up. You want to play college basketball against the best competition, the best teams. So I feel like just being a part of this team and doing what I get to do every day is the best. I couldn't ask for anything better."

Winter Wonderland

While Utahans have had a break lately from bad weather, this has nevertheless been a frigid and snowy winter. Winder, a Las Vegas native, is in the midst of his second winter in Utah.

"It's definitely different," he said with a smirk. "I've never seen so much snow until I came to Utah, and it's never been this much snow until this year, so I feel like it's different but I'm adjusting. I just have to be careful when I walk to class."

One big adjustment that people from warmer regions have to make when moving to a place like Utah is driving in the snow.

"I try not to drive in it," said Winder. "I mean, I try to stay out of it as much as possible, but sometimes you just can't help it with classes and stuff like that, so I just try to drive as slowly and walk as slowly as possible."

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