With senior forward Lavon Gray already sidelined for the season with a leg injury, the Wolves’ injury woes were magnified all the more when senior guard Ryan Godfrey went down with a torn Achilles tendon just minutes into the Nov. 5 exhibition contest at Jacksonville State, ending his season before it ever officially started.
Godfrey underwent successful surgery on Thursday — just a little more than 24 hours before tonight’s 7:30 season opener against Miles College at The Coliseum as part of the two-day Gulf South/Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Challenge.
Needless to say, it’s been a whirlwind of a preseason for Cooney and Co.
“It’s our second captain to go down and we haven’t even played an official game. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been coaching for 25 years and have never, ever — I’ve had guys get injured — but never season-ending injuries and we haven’t even played,” Cooney said. “We’re human around here. And it’s really, really tough on us and our team to lose these guys that are leaders for us.”
With Godfrey and Gray on the shelf — both will seek a medical redshirt — it leaves point guard Quincy Hill and center Brett Seljak as lone healthy seniors, meaning the Wolves are seeking major minutes from some young, inexperienced players.
In the exhibition at JSU, it was freshman guard Deontre Brown that stepped up for West Georgia, scoring a team-high 17 points, while sophomore guard Taylor Cochran added 11 and Seljak dropped in 10.
“Without Ryan, we’re really going to need Deontre in there as much as possible. He’s a 6-1, 165-pound guard. Ryan Godfrey is a 6-3, 205-pound UFC cage wrestler. They’re two different body types with different levels of experience,” Cooney said. “But that’s where we are. Deontre is quick as a cat and is going to be very good and we’re going to watch him develop right here in front of our eyes.”
Following tonight’s opener against Miles (0-1), the Wolves play host to Morehouse College (0-0) on Saturday night at 6 to close out the Challenge. Miles and Morehouse will also play GSC foe North Alabama this weekend at The Coliseum, with the Lions facing the Maroon Tigers on Friday night at 5:30 and the Golden Bears on Saturday at 4 p.m.
For the Wolves, this weekend opens a pre-conference slate that includes back-to-back games tonight at Saturday, followed by a trip to Clayton State on Tuesday before returning home to host Columbus State next Saturday. UWG opens GSC play on Thursday, Nov. 29, at Alabama-Huntsville.
Cooney scheduled a tough non-conference field expecting to have all of his weapons at his disposal. But with the onset of the injuries, he said it’s going to make for some formidable competition every night his ball club hits the court.
“These are things you set up when you’ve got a returning core of guys coming back. You say, ‘Hey, look, we don’t need to play any easy games. We just need to play Division II regional games because we want to get ourselves back to the NCAA Tournament,’” Cooney said.
“So we don’t have any non-regional games this year. We scheduled 26 regional games. Would I like to go back and change that? Sure. But we’re opening up against two teams out of the SIAC that we know are going to be good. We’ve scouted both of them — physical, tough — so we’re going to fight for our lives and we’re going to fight our rear ends off this weekend and try to get as many wins as we can.”