Trevor Gaskins went down last Thursday in practice and will soon have knee surgery. The sophomore guard was one of the experienced players being counted on this season.
Beyond that, his teammates and coaches are distraught that he's gone for the season. They hate it for him and they'll miss his presence this season in practices and in games.
"When Trevor went down late in practice last Thursday, all indications initially were that it was serious," said third-year head coach Andy Kennedy. "But you don't know for sure, and he didn't have very much swelling, which was odd and I thought was a good sign. We did the MRI Friday and we didn't know before practice Friday or busing to Birmingham the extent of the injury."
When Kennedy told the team, it was not pleasant.
"We went out after that and had an abbreviated practice before busing to Birmingham, and there was a fog that seemed to settle on our team," he said. "Honestly that's not to be unexpected, and we have still yet to shake it."
This week was important anyway since the team opens regular season play Friday night. Now there are new challenges.
"This is an important four days for us to get our minds back right," Kennedy said. "We've all been kind of in a state of depression over what happened to Trevor. I moreso for him. And for our guys, when something like that happens, it brings some things to the surface."
The Rebels' closed exhibition Saturday at UAB, which by NCAA rule even the score of the game is not allowed to be kept, was not as productive as Kennedy had hoped for. Gaskins' situation may have been the cause of some of that for the players.
Whatever the situation, the UAB encounter gave the coaches more insight as to how best prepare this team for the upcoming season.
"We didn't play as well as I'd hoped," Kennedy said. "We learned a lot as a staff with some different combinations and some things we're a little more comfortable with."
One thing they dealt with is how to go from 12 scholarship players and six of those with Division I game experience down to 11 scholarship players and still six with D-I game experience following the loss of Gaskins for the season.
"We were able to play against a good Division I team in UAB on Saturday," Kennedy said. "It gave everybody on our team some much-needed experience."
Prior to Gaskins' injury, Kennedy said he felt things were the following way as far as the guards are concerned.
"If I had to look at it right now, there were four guards who had separated themselves, and Trevor was one of those four," Kennedy said. "Anything could have happened, because we were still fighting for spots going into Friday. Obviously we have guys such as Chris (Warren), David (Huertas), and Eniel (Polynice) who have a lot of game situations where we can judge them. These other (new) guys, we don't have a lot to judge them on other than what we've seen day in and day out. There are still some things that need to be sorted out."
Gaskins brought much to the squad that is tough to replace, according to his coach.
"He's an emotional guy. You never have enough of those," Kennedy said. "We lose a valuable weapon, our second-best 3-point shooter percentage-wise. He's a guy that brings emotion to the locker room, to the huddle, to practice. You lose that and he was also an All-SEC freshman player (last year)."
The younger players will now have to step up even more.
"Like those two guys right there," Kennedy said, pointing to freshmen guards Will Bogan and Terrico White. "They've had the opportunity to come in and learn a little bit at a steadier pace before being thrown out there. That has changed now, because there are minutes on the table that have to be taken. We're looking for guys to step up."
Kennedy said Gaskins had suffered the same injury to his right knee in high school. Now it's his left one.
"We're letting everything calm down a little bit, the emotions and the swelling," Kennedy said. "We'll probably do the surgery in the next seven to 10 days. It will be a four to six month deal, so he won't be able to be back this season."
The Rebels will carry on, but they'll do it without one of their experienced guards, even if he only had one year under his belt.
"He was doing a great job for us," Kennedy said. "It's a big blow."
*** Other notes from the UAB trip:
Kennedy said sophomore center Malcolm White continues to come along.
"Mac (Malcolm White) is still the guy. He's still making progress. We're trying to get him to understand that although he's made the most improvement, there are still a lot of demands. He's the senior statesman on our frontcourt. He has to be consistent every day, and for the most part he's given us that. His effort and attitude have been consistent. He's rebounding the ball and doing some positive things."
As for the other big men:
"Terrance Henry and Murphy Holloway are freshmen and every day's a new day, as it is for every freshman. Kevin Cantinol, even though he was here last year and redshirted, just needs time. And DeAundre Cranston continues to figure it out. At UAB was the first time he (Cranston) has gone against Division I opponents that didn't have Ole Miss on their shirts. (Cranston) shot some more 3s. It's part of what he does. It's all a part of the learning process.
More observations from Kennedy:
"The biggest problem we're having right now, and it's made me reflect on slowing down some things, is when kids are confused they're a step slow. As opposed to just coming out and playing open-guy run and gun, you can see the wheels still grinding. They're thinking before they're playing. That tells me maybe I'm putting in too much and that we should slow down and allow them to play to the instincts which got them to an SEC locker room. We want them to play to the athleticism that we all know they have."
On the trip to UAB, where he starred as a player for the Blazers:
"It was good for us, the team and for me. I got to see some people and reconnect a bit. It was a good trip for us in a lot of regards. We believe it will help us as a team, and that was the purpose of it."
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