The Augustana men's basketball team may not be at full strength Saturday when the 6-0 Vikings travel to face No. 7 nationally ranked UW-Stevens Point.|
Then again, Coach Grey Giovanine isn't ruling out junior Kevin Schlitter for the game against the 5-0 Pointers.
"I'd say he's doubtful,'' said Giovanine in a reserved tone, adding Schlitter was experiencing swelling and stiffness in the knee on Thursday and missed practice because of it.
It is not known how long the 6-foot-8 junior center may be sidelined.
Schlitter fell to the Carver Center floor in a heap early in the first half of Wednesday's 77-69 victory over cross-river rival St. Ambrose and did not return to the game. He also did not practice on Thursday. The veteran Viking mentor, though, said Schlitter also did not undergo an MRI or x-rays on his right knee on Thursday.
Ironically, Schlitter had just had the knee examined on Tuesday (both an MRI and x-rays), a day after Giovanine said Schlitter "tweaked'' it in practice, but finished out the workout. He had been diagnosed with meniscus irritation, and according to Giovanine, was told that he could play on it as long as he could tolerate the pain that accompanied the problem.
The coach said he worked out Schlitter early Wednesday afternoon and then checked with him Wednesday evening prior to the final meeting -- for now, at least -- between the two local rivals.
"He said he felt great after warming up before the game,'' said Giovanine. "And he looked great in the 15 minutes in the afternoon.''
But after just four minutes against the Bees, his right knee – not his left, which required surgery for an ACL injury – gave out. Augie's leading scorer (13.5 ppg) and third-leading rebounder (5.0) finished with one rebound and no points. He was wearing a brace on the knee to help with movement and swelling.
So, a tough test at a hostile environment might get even tougher on Saturday without one of just two veterans on the roster – senior center Brandon Kunz being the other.
"It is a tough blow for us,'' said Giovanine. "He makes us a different team.''
Now, Schlitter's roughly 20 minutes he had been averaging will have to be parceled out. Wednesday vs. SAU, former United Township prep Nic Hoepfner, a transfer from Parkland College in Champaign, played 10 minutes in his most extensive varsity action. Hoepfner -- who scored two points and grabbed five rebounds vs. the Bees -- along with fellow sophomore Alex Dziagwa and freshmen Brandon Motzel and Jake Gylten will probably consume those minutes. Starters Kunz and Ben Ryan will probably also see more minutes.
Giovanine was a bit disappointed over the thought his team will not be at full strength for Saturday, even if Schlitter can go. Whoever plays, it will take a huge effort to stay with the Pointers, a perennial NCAA Div. III power that is especially tough on its home court.
"Playing this game will be a great experience,'' said Giovanine. "I told our guys that this will be the best team that we'll play nonconference and on their home court where they have had unbelievable success. They have a first-team all-American (junior point guard Tyler Tillema, who earned the preseason recognition). Being in that environment will help us down the road, regardless of how it comes out. You just can't simulate that experience.
"Our young guys are going to get a baptism by fire. I just hope we survive it.''