A flurry of conference games has come at about the worst possible time for the Green Bay Phoenix mens basketball team.
The team started a stretch of three games in a five-day span on Wednesday night at the Resch Center against Wright State and will play Northern Kentucky at the Kress Center on Friday and at UW-Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon.
That comes on the heels of two games last weekend on Friday and Sunday making it a whopping five games in ten days.
That is not a lot of time for the shorthanded Phoenix to rest and recover from the nagging injuries they’re dealing with. Down to 12 players left on the roster after a pair of guards entered the transfer portal and another was dismissed from the program, Green Bay has been without guard Mitch Listau for most of the season with a foot injury while Tutu Majok has been inactive for the past month due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Making things worse, starting forward Japannah Kellogg picked up an injury at Robert Morris back on January 29th and has missed the past two games after playing just 6 minutes against Cleveland State while trying to play through the pain.
“It’s difficult, we don’t have enough bodies in practice to really go live and rep all this stuff out,” head coach Will Ryan said after his team’s 79-62 loss to the Raiders on Wednesday night. “I’d love to be in the gym practicing one-on-one post D and two-on-two post D. But with how injured we are and run down, you don’t want to throw more at them than you probably need to this time of year.”
“So, just trying to keep everybody fresh and injury free the best we can.”
The Phoenix have been playing with eight eligible players – promising freshman Brayden Dailey is redshirting this season – with two of those eight players being walk-ons that are starting games, playing significant minutes, and contributing.
Unfortunately, Wednesday’s game followed a familiar script for Green Bay this season. The team was down just four at the half and it was a two-point game with 17:27 to go but Wright State would reel off a 22-3 run to take control of the game and put it out of reach as the Phoenix ran out of gas.
“Guys get a little worn down in the second half and then fatigue sets in and mental mistakes happen,” Ryan said after watching his team commit 10 second-half turnovers.
As far as when some of the injured players could return, Ryan sounded optimistic they could still be back before the regular season ends in a couple weeks. Green Bay has six regular season games remaining – NKU at home on Friday and at UWM on Sunday before finally getting a few days off and then hosting Purdue Fort Wayne and Cleveland State next weekend.
The Phoenix wrap up the conference schedule at UIC on February 24th and at IUPUI on February 26th. The Horizon League Tournament starts March 1st.
“It would be nice if we could get Kellogg back to help down low and either block or alter some more shots, get some more rebounds, and just have a little more beef up front,” Ryan said. “He’s getting better day by day so we’re crossing our fingers that we could have him available by Friday, but I don’t think Sunday is out of the question.”
Meanwhile, Listau’s potential return could provide a much-needed boost for the Phoenix outside shooting which currently ranks 348th in the country at 27.2%.
He has struggled a bit shooting the ball so far this season in a limited sample size – he’s 3 for 10 from behind the arc and shooting just 28.6% from the floor overall in 8 games – but he shot better than 35% from behind the arc during his previous two years of college basketball at Belmont and can hopefully get back to that clip in Green Bay.
He is no longer wearing a walking boot perhaps signifying a return is imminent.
“I think Mitch is closer than Tutu, for sure,” Ryan said, “We’re hoping that we can get Mitch back here relatively shortly.”
As for Majok, he was back on the sidelines for the first time on Wednesday night after being in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols since at least January 13th. He hasn’t appeared in a game since the Phoenix home loss against Youngstown State back on December 4th.
“Tutu is still dealing with the effects of health and safety protocol stuff,” Ryan said. “I don’t know how long that takes to recover from, everybody’s different. It would be nice to have him.”
Appearing in 6 games, the 6’9” forward has scored 12 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in 34 total minutes this season.
“He’s a big body, it would be nice to at least have him for practice so we could go 5-on-5.”
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