Things went about as well as they could have for the Southern men’s basketball team during the first two weekends of Southwestern Athletic Conference play.
Then the Jaguars were hit with the unexpected when starting point guard Christopher Hyder was lost indefinitely with a blood clot in his left shoulder and pending surgery to correct the problem that led to the clot.
Now Southern (8-9 and 4-0) has to shake off the emotions of Hyder’s situation and prepare to play without him against Arkansas-Pine Bluff (4-11, 2-1) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Pine Bluff.
“Starting off 4-0 definitely helps, but it’s a long basketball season,” Jaguars coach Roman Banks said. “We always know you’re one injury away from having something special end up not so good. You just take it day by day.
“That’s the reason why I never relished in the way we started off because you never know what happens to your basketball team. My first couple of years we were fortunate enough that we didn’t have these problems. So here in this third season we’ve had our share already.”
Hyder missed a game earlier in the season because of a separate injury, center Javan Mitchell missed much of preseason practice because of an enlarged heart and forward Calvin Godfrey missed time because of an elbow injury.
“The thing about it is, having so many injuries early in the season as well, we were forced to throw people out there,” Banks said. “Hopefully that will pay big dividends for us.”
Banks is likely to move Trelun Banks from shooting guard to point guard and insert Yondarius Johnson in the starting lineup at shooting guard.
Hyder set the defensive tone up top, but the inside tandem of Mitchell and Godfrey has also been a key to the Jaguars leading the SWAC in scoring defense (64.2 points per game), field-goal percentage defense (37.3), rebounding margin (plus-2.3) and scoring margin (plus-7.5).
“Defense is something that we want to hang our hat on,” coach Banks said. “Like I say all the time, I think non-talented guys can play defense because it’s mindset and hard work, so we definitely want to keep our defense where it’s at and also get better at it.”
Southern has allowed an average of 10 fewer points per game in SWAC play compared to the season as a whole. The Jaguars held their last two opponents to fewer than 50, beating Jackson State 60-36 on Monday and beating Grambling 73-49 last Saturday.
“We’ve seen glimpses of how we can shut a team down physically,” Godfrey said, “but there have been times when we have gotten stagnant.”
Godfrey is second in the SWAC with an average of 8.9 rebounds per game, but Banks said he’d like to see the Jaguars improve on their league-leading rebounding.
“I don’t think we’re doing a great job rebounding the basketball,” he said. “I think we can be a little more forceful down there. I wasn’t happy with the last two games as it relates to team rebounding.
“We can trick you a little bit because Calvin does so much in the stat book, but we’ve got to have other guys in there rebounding. Our big guards have to get in there and get some stuff done to help our big guys out as well.”
Southern’s games at Mississippi Valley State, which were postponed from next Monday because of a bomb threat against the Delta Devils’ gymnasium and campus, have been rescheduled for next Wednesday (Jan. 22). The women will play at 5:30 p.m. and the men will play at approximately 7:30 p.m.