The Southern men’s basketball team is in the midst of a full-week break between games.
The timing is fortuitous because the Jaguars have a lot to work on.
They are 2-7 after a 69-50 loss at Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
They have a couple of injured players who may or may not be ready to play against Dillard on Saturday night.
And the beginning of the Southwestern Athletic Conference season is rapidly approaching.
“The first thing we want to do is get everybody healthy,” coach Roman Banks said.
Forward Calvin Godfrey, who leads the team with an 11.7 scoring average and is second in the SWAC with a 9.4 rebounding average, suffered a hyper-extended right elbow against Tech and it’s unclear if he’ll be available Saturday.
Guard Christopher Hyder returned from a one-game absence due to a sprained ankle to play 21 minutes against the Bulldogs, but Banks said the ankle swelled up after the game. Hyder is being limited in practice this week in hopes he’ll be ready for Saturday.
The good news on the health front concerns center Javan Mitchell, who played a season-high 23 minutes against Tech. He is gradually trying to return to form after being sidelined for much of the preseason while being treated for an enlarged heart.
Banks said he thought Mitchell handled the expanded role “great.”
“I thought he definitely wasn’t the Javan of old, but he was a Javan I haven’t seen in a while,” Banks said. “He played with a little more aggression and he handled the minutes well.”
Mitchell, who last season averaged 9.4 points and 4.9 rebounds, finished with four points and eight rebounds against Tech.
“I felt better,” Mitchell said. “Coach and I had a long talk and he just told me not to worry about it and just go out and play and that’s what I did.
“I’m getting back in shape and knocking the rust off. I think everything is coming back to me now.”
Banks said his next priority after getting everyone healthy is “to work on everyone’s weaknesses.”
“This gives us a chance to look at a lot of film,” Banks said. “This week is to get a lot of one-on-one work. We’ll do a lot of individual workouts to get us better at our positions, watch film and come back with individual work on those areas.”
The third thing Banks is focused on this week is making sure “everyone is on the same page and understands their roles on the team.”
Mitchell’s return to the starting lineup allowed Frank Snow to return to his more familiar role coming off the bench, but Mitchell’s limitations have forced Godfrey to emerge early in the season.
“We didn’t expect to have to lean on him as hard as we have,” Banks said.
Tre Lynch has come off the bench to score in double figures each of the last three games, averaging 12.3 points.
“Lynch has really opened our eyes as a scorer off the bench,” Banks said.
Freshman guard Trelun Banks has seen his minutes expand while Hyder has been hobbled and he played a team-high 30 against the Bulldogs.
“Our mindset was to bring Trelun along more slowly, but we see that mentally he can handle it,” coach Banks said. “My arm’s being twisted because I’ve had no choice but to play him but that may be the best thing in the long run.”
Malcolm Miller, the SWAC Preseason Player of the Year, has struggled and Banks moved him from the starting lineup to the bench for the last two games.
Miller came off the bench in each game last season.
Though Miller continues to struggle with his shot (31 percent for the season and 14 percent on 3-pointers in the last six games) Banks said he has been encouraged Miller’s “body language.” Miller has averaged 6.5 rebounds the last two games.
“He’s frustrating himself because he’s wondering why his shot’s not going in,” Banks said, “but he’s starting to do some other things.
“I’m starting to like his senior leadership. He’s not playing well, but he’s cheering for his teammates, he’s still in the gym and he’s starting to do other things to contribute to the team.”
Banks said it’s possible that Miller will return to the starting lineup at some point.
Lynch said this week gives Southern time to work on becoming “more mentally tough.”
“Basically we haven’t been playing bad, but at the end of games we lose focus,” Lynch said. “That’s what we’ve got to work on.”
Lynch said the lack of mental toughness has shown up at the free throw line where the Jaguars are shooting a SWAC-worst 58.7 percent.
“We shoot free throws every day in practice,” Lynch said. “We just have to be mentally tough and knock them down in games.”
The Jaguars are out of school so they have more time to concentrate on basketball. They play just four more non-conference games before opening SWAC play Jan. 4 at Prairie View A&M.
“We have to work things out as soon as possible,” Godfrey said.