Shorthanded Lakers ready for Walsh, Malone

GVL / Archive
Luke Ryskamp


GVL / Archive Luke Ryskamp

Jay Bushen

Good teams beat the teams they’re supposed to. Great teams also beat the teams they’re supposed to, even when they’re banged up.

Easier said than done.

Five Grand Valley State basketball players who have started games this season missed Tuesday’s practice with an injury. All five players — forwards Chaz Rollins and Ricky Carbajal and guards Ernijs Ansons, Aaron Hayes and Darren Kapustka — are upperclassmen.

That’s a third of the team.

Sophomore guard Luke Ryskamp and the Lakers (7-5, 3-3 GLIAC) aren’t making any excuses, however, especially with a prime opportunity to move up in the standings this week. GVSU hosts a pair of South Division teams, Walsh and Malone, which have a combined conference record of 2-10.

“It’s a big weekend for us, especially with all these injuries,” Ryskamp said. “We don’t know who’s going to be ready. We just need to come together and people need to step up. That’s all that really matters. It doesn’t matter who it is, what night it is or who scores.”

Ryskamp’s recent scoring streak has been key for a GVSU team that’s won four of its last five games.

The Schoolcraft High School product has resumed his role as a consistent contributor after somewhat of a cold start to the season, scoring 12 points per game in his last eight outings.

His ability to attack offensively takes pressure off Carbajal and senior guard Ryan Sabin, a duo that accounts for more than 40 percent of the team’s offensive production. GVSU coach Ric Wesley said he likes what he’s seen from the pair of leaders both on and off the court through 12 games.

“It feels like those guys are ready to take another step up,” Wesley said. “They’ve performed very well here as of late. Love their leadership off the court, but really liking what I’m seeing on the floor. They’re being much more aggressive, much more assertive.”

HEY RICKY, HE’S JUST FINE: Carbajal said he expects to play through his heel injury. From there, it’s up to Assistant Athletic Trainer Kelly Hardy to determine who’s ready to go.

For Wesley, the expectation is the same no matter who’s in the starting lineup.

“Guys have stepped up when given their opportunity,” he said. “We feel more and more comfortable with more guys because we’ve had to play guys out of necessity. Hopefully in the long term, it will make us that much better. In the short term, you’ve just got to survive it.”

A number of freshmen are helping the Lakers stay afloat.

Myles Miller (Ottawa Hills, Mich.) has led the team to a 4-1 record as the starting point guard since Dec. 14, while Sam McClendon (Southfield, Mich.) has started two in a row.

LEVELING UP: Sophomore forward Trevin Alexander is progressing quickly as GVSU’s sixth man, and he’s one of the best in the GLIAC when it comes to crashing the boards.

Alexander has been a reliable inside presence since his 17-point, 25-rebound performance in GVSU’s quadruple-overtime loss at Ashland in December. He leads the conference in offensive rebounds and ranks fourth among GVSU players in scoring (8.0 PPG).

HOME SWEET HOME: GVSU is a different team in the friendly confines of Fieldhouse Arena.

“We have this thing about staying undefeated at home,” Alexander said. “It’s hard to do that, but we know this court — the rims, the people, the fans — and the energy is going to be great so we’re just trying to keep up a good spirit.”

The team is 4-0 in Allendale this season, 1-1 at neutral sites and 2-4 on the road. With a daunting Upper Peninsula trip one week away, winning against Walsh and Malone is crucial.

“We’re looking forward to playing back in front of the home fans,” Wesley said. “Hopefully we get the students back out here. Usually in the second semester, students start giving us strong support — and we need it. All the extra help and energy we can get is a positive.”

HOOPS > SYLLABUS WEEK: GVSU welcomes Jesse Hardin and the Cavaliers of Walsh (5-5, 1-5) on Thursday at 8 p.m. before taking on the Pioneers of Malone (3-9, 1-5) on Saturday at 3 p.m.