Sophomore point guard Armon Bassett left Indiana’s 70-57 win against Illinois State last night late in the first half. He had only a very slight limp.
Bassett didn’t come out with the team at the beginning of the first half. He did return a few minutes into the half, trailed by team trainer Tim Garl and the team’s orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Steve Ahlfeld. Bassett plopped down in the middle of the bench — forcing a few of the deep reserves to scoot down — and threw his warm-up jacket off. He certainly looked like he planned on playing.
He never did. A few minutes later, he left the bench and, along with team physician Larry Rink, did not return.
What this means is anyone’s guess. Including the head coach, Kelvin Sampson, who said last night he wasn’t sure of Bassett’s status but heard the term Achilles tendon being thrown around. That could be trouble.
The Achilles tendon is the thickest, strongest tendon in the body for a reason: it often handles forces up to 10 times the weight of the body, due to quick cutting and jumping required in many sports. So when it is simply sore and tired (a condition commonly called tendinitis) from overuse or some form of misuse (such as poorly fitted shoes) it can take some time to heal completely.
A partially or completely ruptured Achilles tendon is in almost all cases a devastating injury, requiring immobilization or surgery. That being said, it is almost impossible to walk on a severely ruptured Achilles, and Bassett certainly was walking.
What does this all mean? Probably that Bassett is having pain in his lower ankle, and the team’s medical staff fears that the Achilles is either strained or partially ruptured. My guess is that, depending on how he feels today, Bassett will undergo an MRI to determine the severity of his injury.
It seems unlikely that Bassett will be 100 percent by tonight. And if there’s one thing Indiana can’t afford, it’s to have a tentative or less mobile Bassett guarding Xavier point guard Drew Lavender, the 5-7 former Sampson pupil.
Lavender, who began his career at Oklahoma, often needs just one step to find the opening he needs to dish or get to the net. His ability to spread defenses is the primary reason that Xavier has six players averaging double figures in scoring.
Eric Gordon will likely draw the job of guarding Lavender, while another freshman, Jordan Crawford, steps into the starting lineup at Indiana’s current version of “point guard.”
I’ve put that in quotations because the Hoosiers still haven’t figured out how this team’s point guard is going to have to play. There was a similar adjustment last year with Earl Calloway. By the end of the year, Calloway’s first duty was to be a shutdown defender. His second was to decide when to push the offense up court and when to settle into Indiana’s many intricate half-court sets.
(Calloway, by the way, played his first game with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBDL last night, and had nine points, seven rebounds and four assists. Another former Hoosier, Rod Wilmont, led the Mad Ants with 23 points and hit 4-of-9 from 3. Full box score’s right here.)
Indiana doesn’t have as many offensive “plays” this year, and won’t anytime soon. It is more able to score in transition and Sampson has no desire to complicate what his athletic team has to do when it does face half-court situations. He wants to see somebody drive and do one of four things: 1) score, 2) get fouled, 3) leave the ball for a forward to accomplish either of the first two options or 4) kick the ball out to the perimeter for an open shot.
This strategy has worked well enough so far, and Crawford is clearly able of orchestrating it tonight. He’s so smooth with the ball.
The problem? Indiana hasn’t figured out where to fit D.J. White and, to a lesser extent, Jamarcus Ellis into this offense yet. Last night White took only six shots and hit two. He didn’t get to the free throw line at all.
White, a senior captain, needs to get in the game early tonight. He feeds off emotion. Friday night he struggled early and lost confidence. He couldn’t get a shot off from the paint and his jumper was off. He was active on the boards and — after Sampson yelled several times for him to do this — played hard. But when White is playing well, he is in control. He plays with a purpose. Against the Redbirds he was flailing, trying to draw fouls and reaching for rebounds (he did finish with 7.) He doesn’t have his “swagger” (that’s a favorite term of Sampson’s) right now.
White could face a tough match up tonight against Xavier’s quick forwards. But that means they face a tough match up with the powerful White.
As for Ellis, he’s deferring. His role with this team will never be to score a lot — his rebounding, passing and defense are what makes him so valuable — he’s got to show other teams that he can hit shots and get to the lane. The rest of his game feeds off of that. What’s more, the Redbirds eventually started using the man who was supposed to guard Ellis to drift toward Gordon.
How did it look from your vantage point last night? What do you expect tonight?