Various observers - some quietly, some openly - criticized Guelph Gryphons Head Coach Chris O'Rourke over the summer after he did what many in his position would do coming off a non-playoff year for a program historically accustomed to competing for National championships: bringing in new players to make things competitive while adding depth at the same time. In doing so, Guelph started the season with a chubby 18 man roster at camp; not out of the ordinary but larger than most. No one would have guessed that that depth would get stretched to beyond the breaking point with the unprecedented amount of injuries and roster setbacks. And the coach himself would land on the injured list with a basketball-related injury !
Earlier today came the news that 6'4" Jonathan Moscatelli had injured his wrist last night in practice driving the lane and colliding with a late-arriving teammate trying to take charge. Extent of his injury is not yet known but he will not play tonight against Lakehead. Guelph now has lost their top three scorers as earlier 6'0" Kareem Malcolm sustained a wrist injury that was thought to be season-ending but he may be available in late February. Earlier this week, 6'2" Dan McCarthy, fresh off an MVP performance at the UQAM tournament, was diagnosed with a strange elbow injury that subsequently became infected and he his unavailable for at least the next two weekends. Prior to McCarthy's injury, O'Rourke returned after Christmas to discover that promising sophomore big man John Brutto had left school altogether, returning home to London due to personal medical reasons. Also 6'3" Sheriff Wiredu will miss the rest of the season with concussion-induced symptoms and 6'8" Matt Howlett continues to be plagued with pnemonia. 6'8" Kevin Cameron has battled a nausau-inducing virus since Christmas but can still play limited minutes.
These noteable setbacks leave Guelph with just 9 healthy players and a starting lineup of three newcomers (6'5" Sheridan transfer Jerald Greenidge, two freshmen in 6'1" Michel Clark and 6'7" Andrew Beney) plus 6'2" soph Drew Morris and 6'1" vet Mike Patrella. The roster contraction presents opportunities for three more freshmen who had been pegged to be slowly eased into OUA league play but now must face frontline fire immediately: 6'0" George Mason (Toronto St. Mike's), 6'1" Youri Mutamba (St. Catharines) and 6'5" John Atkinson (Newmarket).
To top it all off, Coach O'Rourke sustained a serious achilles injury while playing in a local men's league game on Monday and is moving around with the aid of crutches with a large boot-like contraption on his injured leg. Hopefully someone can find their way to locating a shamrock somewhere in the Mitchell Gym to help Guelph avoid any further roster churn, the likes of which I challenge anyone to ever recall in CIS basketball history.
All that awaits this young crew is one of the OUA's deepest, most athletic and three-point shooting teams in Lakehead Thunderwolves tonight in Guelph for a pair of games Friday and Saturday night.