Foot injuries have become a sore subject for Cardinalmaniacs™ in recent years, as Stanford Basketball has dealt with a myriad of ailments that have derailed and sometimes ended players' seasons. Sensationalist articles were written by the local media blaming the bouncy floor of Maples Pavilion, and the resultant public pressure led to the decision to put in a more conventional floor during the current renovation of the facility. However, we saw Tim Morris sit out more than a month this summer with a stress reaction in his foot, and today we have learned that Matt Haryasz is suffering from planter fasciitis.
The inflammation of the junior power forward's planter fascia, which is the fibrous tissue that extends along the arch of the foot from your toes to your heel, is not an ailment that came suddenly. It is a cumulative condition that comes from too much stress and stressing of the tissue, often found in people with flat feet. The recipe for recovery is to give greater support to the arch, and Haryasz has a custom orthotic that has just been designed for him to this end. The 6'11" big man, however, will not be able wear the custom insole when he plays tomorrow night in Stanford's season opener against USF.
"You cannot use a new orthotic in a game right away," explains team trainer Tomoo Yamada. "It takes time to break it in, like a baseball glove."
As witnessed this afternoon by The Bootleg in Oakland, Haryasz is continuing to practice with the team. Head coach Trent Johnson says that his starting power forward, one of just two returning players on the team in the frontcourt, will play tomorrow night in the Pete Newell Challenge. The coaching and medical staff will be cautious about the minutes Haryasz plays, however.
"Matt will start, and we'll see how long he can play without pain," forecasts Johnson. "Matt thinks he can play 30 to 35 minutes, but we'll probably let him play 25, if that much."
Stanford will play four games in a span of six days, starting Friday, so now is not the time to push Haryasz for more minutes than his foot can handle. Though this first week of the regular season, which includes three games against top national competition in the Maui Invitational, will be seen by many fans and observers as a bellwether test for Johnson as Stanford's new head coach, he is willing to hold his starting power forward back if it means better health for the remainder of the season.
"It's early, and I'm more concerned about the duration of the season. It's a journey, not a sprint," the Cardinal coach comments. He has just 10 scholarship players at his disposal this year and knows the paramount importance of keeping those bodies healthy throughout the year. "I think we have all the makings of a solid team, but injuries will be huge for us."
If Haryasz' minutes are limited as expected Friday at the Arena in Oakland, it will not necessarily be a blow to Stanford's chances against the University of San Francisco. The Dons are expected to start a three-guard lineup with no true center, including two forwards at 6'7" and 6'8". Stanford's first option off the bench to relieve Haryasz is 6'8" 185-pound freshman Taj Finger, though you would expect fifth-year senior Nick Robinson (6'6" 200) to play significant minutes as a power forward in the game as well.
"We're not very tall and we're not very athletic," laments first-year USF head coach Jessie Evans, who in typical coach-speak enjoys underselling his players. "Trent [Johnson] has coaches bigger than my guys."
It should be noted, obvious though it may be, that Stanford Basketball players can still have foot problems in the absence of the infamous bouncy Maples floor. The Cardinal have not played on that floor since last winter, yet Haryasz and Morris have still developed foot problems. On the Stanford Women's Basketball team, fifth-year senior point guard Susan Borchardt is currently out with a stress reaction in her foot. Problems can and will persist for today's athletes, given the year-round pounding they put on their feet. A more culpable villain for these foot injuries, rather than the Maples floor, may be today's basketball shoes. So many athletes crave extra bounce in their shoes, to jump higher and fly further, that shoe companies have taken away much of the rigid support that was found in the shoes of yesteryear. Many of today's shoes can be bent to the shape of a horseshoe, which demonstrates the lack of support constructed along the arch. Foot injuries are a widespread problem in basketball today, well beyond the Stanford campus, and it may sadly take more injuries before coaches and athletes start to demand different priorities from the shoe manufacturers.
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