Column: Three ‘Woodenisms’ for GVSU

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
#20 Ryan Sabin

GVL/Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff #20 Ryan Sabin

Jay Bushen

John Wooden once said that adversity is the state in which man mostly easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.

Being especially free of admirers after a 20-point home loss to a 3-10 Malone team, the Grand Valley State men’s basketball players have plenty of time — about eight hours — to become acquainted with one another on a bus bound for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

GVSU (8-6, 4-4 GLIAC) has 14 games to prove it’s worthy of an 11th straight GLIAC Tournament appearance in March. The injury-riddled Lakers have the talent and experience to make it happen, but it won’t be easy in the suddenly lopsided GLIAC landscape.

1. “Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.”

No need to panic about a .500 conference record this early in the season. But a comb through the league standings shows the Lakers are tied with Northern Michigan (which GVSU plays Thursday night in Marquette) for last place in the GLIAC North Division.

In the early goings of the 2014-15 campaign, North Division teams walloped their southern counterparts. As a result, eight of the league’s top nine teams are from the North.

No teams in the North have a losing record in conference play. Ashland (10-4, 4-4), which bested GVSU in a quadruple-overtime thriller in December, is the only South Division team without a losing record in conference play. Translation: GVSU has no time to play around.

2. “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

Offensively, GVSU didn’t play well against Walsh or Malone last week — and that might be an understatement. The Lakers were able to put together an impressive second half for a 63-56 win over Walsh, but they scored 17 points in the first half of both games.

Why are the Lakers struggling to score? Injuries. Particularly, the injury at point guard.

GVSU hasn’t had junior transfer Aaron Hayes in the lineup for four straight games. A hamstring injury before the season kept Hayes out of practice and, just when he started to settle into the starting rotation, he suffered another hamstring injury to his other leg.

Based on the team’s luck with injuries this season — that’s really no surprise. Everyone seems to be either hurt or playing hurt, and people are missing practice. When people miss practice, timing is disrupted. When timing is disrupted, you wind up with 17 first-half points.

GVSU needs to adapt. It needs a healthy, reliable quarterback — a “Rob Woodson” — that can confidently take control of this offense. If that doesn’t happen, the team could continue to struggle.

3. “A leader’s most powerful ally is his or her own example.”

Hold up: There’s good news. Does the team need a dynamic distributor to run the point? Yes. But from a personnel standpoint, that’s about all it needs.

I don’t think Ryan Sabin lets this team falter much more than it has. The senior leader is money at the free-throw line, and has the ability to take over games from beyond the arc. That’s a given.

Ricky Carbajal is looking as good as he ever has on the low block. Luke Ryskamp is confidently attacking the lane and getting to the free-throw line. Trevin Alexander is proving to be a rebounding machine and Darren Washington is still keeping teams out of the paint.

This is a team full of fully capable role players. The pieces are in place. But the leaders on the team need to step up and glue those pieces together. The remaining 14 games are against GLIAC North opponents. It’s going to take win streaks, upset victories and statement games for GVSU to claw back into contention. 

Every game may be a test, but as Wooden once said, “We get stronger when we test ourselves. Adversity can make us better. We must be challenged to improve, and adversity is the challenger.”