Health of players key to team success.
Injuries have decimated the Missouri S&T men's basketball team in recents years.
So it seems only fitting the Miners are dealing with more of them to start the 2013-14 campaign.
The probable key to the S&T men's basketball fortunes this season is how well some players rebound from injuries and, in the case of one key newcomer, when he returns from one.
So far Miner head coach Jim Glash has seen some good things from his healthy and rehabbing players who are in practice.
"It's been up and down," said Glash, entering his fifth full season as Miner head coach. "We had two really good days and then (Monday) was not really as good. But overall we're fairly encouraged."
The Miners are coming off an injury-marred season which left them 7-18 overall and 3-15 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC), quite possibly the best basketball league in the NCAA Division II, producing the men's national champion two of the last three years.
Two projected starters for last season went down with season-ending injuries.
Freshman 6-2 point guard Aaron Emmanuel injured a knee after three games, had surgery and was red-shirted for the entire campaign. And 6-4 senior guard-forward Bryce Foster, a three-year starter, played just six games due to a foot injury and was also red-shirted after undergoing surgery.
Other players back are sophomore guard Zach Ellis, who played all of last season with a hip problem; 5-10 senior guard Nusrath Khan, 6-1 junior guard Mudi Eruteya, 6-5 junior forward Curtis Okafor, 6-7 sophomore forward Michael Nesbitt and 6-0 sophomore guard Mike Miller.
Miller, a former Rolla High School standout, is also coming off a broken toe suffered at the end of last season and more recently just returned to practice after suffering a hip flexor injury.
Eruteya was the team's leading scorer at 13.6 points and top rebounder at 7.5 last season. Foster averaged 13.2 points and 5.0 rebounds before going down while Khan averaged 11.2 points and Nesbitt 7.0 points and 4.6 rebounds.
The big loss from last season was forward-center Michael Jackson (7.5 points, 5.2 rebounds), who completed his eligibility.
Newcomers to the squad are all incoming freshmen - 6-1 guard Danylo Zuikov, 6-4 forward Chinomso Ebube, 6-2 guard Clifford Duniqan, 6-4 freshman Tyler Anderson and 6-8 center Justin Kurash.
Kurash, projected to be the Miners' starting center, was hit with the injury bug during preseason conditioning drills with a broken foot. He is to miss a total of 10-to-12 weeks, meaning he'll be out at least until after the holiday break.
"That's the big issue," Glash said. "We're hoping to get Kurash back (later this season). He's the only post in the program. We're literally playing four guards on the floor at all times now."
Glash is hopeful that Emmanuel can return to the impressive form he flashed before his injury. "He's doing pretty good," Glash said. "Some days there is a little soreness but the structure is fine. (S&T trainer) Cullen Fridley has done a great job rehabbing his injury."
Khan, Eruteya and Foster are doing a fine job leading the squad, according to Glash.
"Our greatest strength so far is that senior class," Glash said. "They have set a standard of how hard they expect everybody to work.
"We are senior and freshman dominated. We have five freshmen who need to contribute this year. It's been a learning process for them."
Some of those newcomers will be asked to play immediate roles.
"Zuikov has represented his country (Ukraine) in international play and was their point guard at the World Games this summer," Glash said. At the (power forward) position Ebube brings athletism at the position we've never had before. It's a matter of him learning the system. Then, obviously, Kurash, once he gets his foot healed we feel he'll be a very good player in this league.
"This is the deepest we've been at each position. A year ago we knew we couldn't lose our point guard and (small forward) - and we lost them both. This year we believe we're two-deep at every position but at (center)."
MINER NOTES: Marques Baldwin is in his first season as Miner assistant coach. Baldwin, who served as Westminster assistant coach last season, also spent two seasons as head coach at Fulton High School. He is a native of Waynesville and played on a Waynesville High School district championship squad. He played collegiately at Mineral Area College and at Lubbock Christian University.
The Miners open their season on Nov. 8, hosting Westminster College (7:30 p.m.). It will be part of a S&T-Westminster women's/men's doubleheader on Nov. 8 at the Gale Bullman Multi-Purpose Building. A former Rolla High School brother-sister combo now plays for the Westminster teams in Jay and Andrea Zalis. Also on the Westminster men's roster is former RHS Bulldog Keegan Garner while on the Lady Blue Jay roster is ex-Lady Bulldog Megan McCaul.
The Miners' first three games are at home before hitting the road at Southwest Baptist on Nov. 19.
S&T's first GLVC game is Dec. 5 at defending national champion Drury.
The 2013-14 schedule:
Nov. 8...Westminster, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 13...Southeastern Okla. St., 7 p.m.
Nov. 16...Robert Morris, 8 p.m.
Nov. 19...at Southwest Baptist, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 21...at Southern Illinois, 7 p.m.
Nov. 29-30...Kentucky Wesleyan Thanksgiving Classic (Nov. 29 vs. Young Harris College, 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 30 vs. Ky Wesleyan or Wilberforce, tba)
Dec. 5...at Drury, 7:45 p.m.*
Dec. 8...Webster, 3 p.m.
Dec. 14...at Lindenwood, 3 p.m.
Jan. 3...Indianapolis, 7:30 p.m.*
Jan. 5...Saint Joseph's, 3 p.m.*
Jan. 9...at Southern Indiana, 7:30 p.m.*
Jan. 11...at Bellarmine, 2:15 p.m.*
Jan. 16...William Jewell, 7:30 p.m.*
Jan. 18...Rockhurst, 3 p.m.*
Jan. 23...Maryville, 7:30 p.m.*
Jan. 25...Missouri-St. Louis, 3 p.m.*
Jan. 30...at Truman State, 7:30 p.m.*
Feb. 1...at Quincy, 3:15 p.m.*
Feb. 6...at Illinois-Springfield, 7:30 p.m.*
Feb. 8...at McKendree, 3 p.m.*
Feb. 13...Lewis, 7:30 p.m.*
Feb. 15...Wisconsin-Parkside, 3 p.m.*
Feb. 20...at Rockhurst, 7:30 p.m.*
Feb. 22...at William Jewell, 3:15 p.m.*
Feb. 27...Drury, 7:30 p.m.*
Feb. 2, 7-9...GLVC Tourney, tba