The mood at Eastern Washington University’s men’s basketball practice Wednesday afternoon was remarkably upbeat, considering Glen Dean did little but watch from the sidelines after learning earlier this week that he has a stress fracture in his left foot that will sideline him indefinitely.
“I’m just glad it happened now and not halfway through the season when we’re into conference play,” said Dean, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, who averaged a team-high 12.1 points and a Big Sky Conference-best 4.4 assists as a true freshman last winter. “I’m a little disappointed, but things like this happen and you just have to deal with it.
“The important thing is how you bounce back.”
Dean, who has been wearing a protective boot on his left foot, will have his injury re-evaluated in the next week or two and is hoping to return in time for Eastern’s Dec. 29 Big Sky opener against Sacramento State – or sooner.
But as third-year head coach Kirk Earlywine pointed out, there are no guarantees that his starting point guard will return at all this season.
“Any time you lose your best player, it’s tough,” Earlywine said. “And when he’s also your leader on the floor, it just multiplies the challenge.
“Plus, we’re dealing with an unknown quality here in whether Glen will be back in December, or January, or at all – which makes it hard to structure practices and plan for what’s going to happen down the line.”
Until Dean returns, the point guard responsibilities will fall on the shoulders of Cliff Colimon, a first-year junior transfer from the College of Eastern Utah, who helped the Golden Eagles to a 27-10 record and third-place finish in the NJCAA national tournament last winter.
“The impact of losing Glen is tremendous,” Earlywine admitted. “But I feel fortunate in the fact that we were able to find another guard in Cliff who could be our primary ball handler. He was the starting point guard on what was, arguably, the best two-year college team in the country, and played at one of the premier high schools (Elizabeth) back in New Jersey.
“Obviously, guard was not our most impressing recruiting need, but we were able to get Cliff – and now he has a huge burden on his shoulders.”
In addition to Dean, the Eagles have also lost the services of freshman forward Geoffrey Allen, who broke his wrist in an earlier practice and will miss the entire season.
Earlywine expected to redshirt the 6-5, 175-pound Allen, the son of former UCLA and NBA standout Lucius Allen, this winter.
“But the way he was playing, he was changing my mind – just like Jeffrey Forbes did last year,” Earlywine added. “It’s unfortunate he sustained that injury, because the thing he needs to work on most is his upper body.
“And with that wrist in a cast, we can’t put him under a bar in the weight room.”
The Eagles, with just four letterwinners returning from last year’s injury riddled 9-21 team that finished 5-11 in the Big Sky, play home exhibition games against Seattle Pacific (Nov. 2) and Montana State-Billings (Nov. 8) before opening regular-season play at home against San Jose State on Nov. 12.