A team becomes lost without its leader.
Sacramento State’s men’s basketball team might not have been the favorite to win the Big Sky Conference this year, but it was headed in the right direction.
That was until the injury bug decided he wanted to join the team.
Two weeks ago, point guard Dylan Garrity suffered a back injury during warm-ups and Thursday, senior center Konner Veteto only played six minutes before injuring his knee.
Sac State already lacks the luxuries other Division I programs have. The facilities are outdated, the students never show up to games and it plays in a conference dominated by two schools that get all the spotlight. It cannot afford anymore setbacks.
Although the Hornets were able to rebound without Garrity’s presence and get a pair of wins against North Dakota and Northern Colorado, Sac State was helpless without their starting center. It lost its last two games after having halftime leads of 13 points and 10 points to Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, respectively.
Who would think a 6-foot-8 center could have that much of an impact for a Division I basketball program?
This season, Veteto is averaging 10.6 points per game and 5.9 rebounds, which might not sound like much, but Sac State just has to make the best of what it has, just like other teams have done in the past.
Eleven years ago, the Houston Rockets drafted Yao Ming with their first pick in the NBA draft and for seven seasons, he averaged 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. Ming was a perennial all-star, but a stress fracture in his left foot ended his career in 2009.
The Rockets substituted Ming with Chuck Hayes to finish the season, but Hayes’ presence was not enough to make the playoffs and the franchise has not returned to the postseason since.
Sac State cannot become the 2009 Houston Rockets. The Hornets have now fallen to the seventh seed in the Big Sky Conference and are holding on for a postseason tournament bid.
A leader needs to emerge to spark a second-half comeback to end the season strong and one player comes to mind.
Senior forward Joe Eberhard has struggled all season, averaging only 7.4 points per game, but he has both the on-court talent and off-court leadership needed to take the reins.
As a junior last season, he shot 46 percent from the 3-point line, so his teammates need to set some screens and let him shoot.
The Hornets have nine games left this season and the ball is in their court. Now, they need someone who will lead the way.
Ryan can be reached on Twitter at @rskuhn