WKU hoops: Jamal Crook back to practice, ready for Troy

11 01 2011

Western Kentucky basketball coach Ken McDonald said today that sophomore point guard Jamal Crook has returned to practice after suffering an elbow injury during last week’s loss to Denver, and should be ready to go Thursday when WKU visits Troy.

Crook fell midway through the second half last Thursday, landing awkwardly on his left arm. He then spent the remainder of the game on the bench with an ice bag around his arm.

McDonald said after the game that it was most likely a hyperextended elbow. Today, though he said that Crook has returned to practice and is a full-go.

As for other bumps and bruises, McDonald said that Caden Dickerson (back), Steffphon Pettigrew (calf) and Cliff Dixon (wrist) will all be ready to play against the Trojans.

This is important for WKU due to the fact that the Hilltoppers were down to just one healthy point guard in Kahlil McDonald with Crook sidelined.

WKU (5-9, 0-2) will look for its first Sun Belt win of the season Thursday.

“Three days ago we had about four guys out in practice,” Ken McDonald said. “Jamal hurt his elbow but he’s back, Caden Dickerson was having back spasms and shoulder issues, but he’s back. Steffphon Pettigrew had a calf strain, but he’s back. Cliff Dixon had some wrist tendonitis, but he’s back. Practice was full-throttle (on Monday).”

 

Here are some other snippets from Tuesday’s media session:

On playing through injuries in general:

“Honestly there’s some guys that can hopefully step up (due to limited bodies). Stephon Drane caught some bad luck after the Christmas break and got hurt, but he’s back into the fold and can hopefully use this as an opportunity to get minutes. Kene Anyigbo, same thing. Kahlil keeps getting stronger and better, Caden will play some point, and everybody else just has to step up. That’s it. It makes for more opportunities for other guys.

“I don’t think we’re dealing with anything (injury-wise) that any other team isn’t dealing with. It’s one of those things where you don’t want it to turn into missing a bunch of time. That’s why I sit a guy like Steffphon Pettigrew in practice, I’m not worried about him not playing hard or knowing what he’s supposed to do – he’s a veteran. A lot of guys play hurt and that’s all part of the learning process.”

On whether or not the team has had any head-hanging this past week after a second-straight home loss:

“They’ve been good. They’ve been coming back with attitudes that they want to get better and they want to win. As long as we keep doing that, we’re going to get better and I think a breakthrough’s going to happen. We go on the road to Troy and they’ve lost a lot of seniors, so this is a game that we have to go in with an approach that we can win. They’ve got guards that are scoring, I’m sure they’ll play tough and we’ll have to shut them down with transition defense. The challenges are there, but this is a good game for us.

“And over the next four games, there are all opportunities to get better.

“Every game is really important. I can’t say one game makes a season, but we’ve got to win on the road – that’s the bottom line. If we want to be at the top of (the Sun Belt East), we have to win on the road. When you lose a home game, I always think that you have to go out and get a couple of road wins to balance it out. That’s why this one is important. And more importantly, for confidence. We haven’t had a lot of stretches of confidence. This is important from that standpoint more than anything.”

On focusing on one day, one game at a time from here on out:

“We have to not beat ourselves. Whether it’s turnovers or what, we’re settling into a rotation and I want some other guys to step up. I want Teng (Akol) to step up and play more minutes. It’s been tough for a variety of reasons to get him in some games lately, but this next stretch I think will be different. I think it’ll be a good stretch for him. Hopefully he’ll allow us to get a little larger of a rotation for our bigs. I want better depth, better minutes, we’ll concentrate on this one game but these guys have always done that.”

On overall putting a foot down with regard to this recent funk:

“I’m trying to gauge it all on the energy level and attitude in practice right now, and that’s been there. I think that once you come out for a game and you see an intensity on the road that shows guys are ready to play, that’s an important factor in determining that. You never know until you get out there. I thought the energy was there at Arkansas State. Denver was a different animal and we needed more focus in that game. And a lot of those kids on our team haven’t played against that style and that was difficult. But I think we’ll know more on Thursday.”

On facing a new-look Troy team that graduated virtually all of its production from last season:

“They’re still up-tempo and have guys that have a green light on offense that can shoot quick shots. They have some guys that are dangerous when they’re able to take quick, deep 3’s. We can’t let them get easy ones. The last few times we’ve been down there we’ve given up too many rim-shots and offensive rebounds. They have to take contested shots and we have to be confident on offense.

“We’ve got to slow them down early, we can’t let them get ahead so they can go one-on-one and get to the rim. We’ve been concentrating a lot on that in practice and we’ll have to carry it over. If it’s a half-court game, we’ve got to lock in and play team defense. I want us to push the ball and use our athleticism, and I want other guys stepping up and more guys in the rotation.”

On whether or not Juan Pattillo will continue to come off the bench:

“He’s been productive (off the bench), but we’ll see. I’m never set on the starting lineup, it changes all the time and I don’t buy into (the idea) that it has to be the same all the time or anything like that. We’ll see. We’ve been messing around with different lineups this week, and when you’re not winning you’re always searching for different buttons to push, who to go with, what to run on the offensive end and what to do on defense.

“You’re searching for answers all the time. And we’ll see on Thursday.”

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