A number of topics to catch up with this afternoon, including a third ACL injury for MSU women’s basketball player Madison Williams.
It’s the third straight year the 6-foot-7 former McDonald’s All-American will miss since arriving in East Lansing in the fall of 2010. The injury, to the same left knee she hurt last year, was discovered in an MRI exam Tuesday. Brian Calloway has the story here.
And it’s also the seventh straight season the Spartans have had a player miss time due to an ACL tear: Lauren Aitch (2006-07), Mia Johnson (2007-08), Brittney Thomas (2008-09), Courtney Schiffauer (2009-10) and Williams the past three.
Like Williams, Johnson also tore both of her knee ligaments, one of them in high school, and battled through the pain and physical limitations to complete her career. However, coach Suzy Merchant said Williams – an exceptionally positive person – has at times struggled mentally in coping with her rehabilitation after her second ACL injury.
An already difficult early season has become a lot more challenging for Merchant. MSU lost freshman Ariel Powers, Williams’ former high school teammate, to a torn Achilles tendon on Friday. Junior Annalise Pickrel (shoulder), and sophomores Becca Mills and Jasmine Hines are all on the mend from offseason surgery. Freshman Branndais Agee (foot) can’t play right now, and sophomore Kiana Johnson and redshirt freshman Akyah Taylor are suspended for the first nine games for violating unspecified NCAA rules.
The Spartans open exhibition play Thursday night against Saginaw Valley State.
Cornerback Johnny Adams should be OK to play Saturday against Nebraska and does not have a separated shoulder, defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett said Wednesday.
Barnett said he’s not sure yet whether safeties R.J. Williamson (ankle) and Jairus Jones (leg) will be able to play. Running backs coach Brad Salem said fullback Niko Palazeti should be ready to play again after being on-again, off-again with an ankle injury.
Salem also talked about the difficulty of finding a secondary, complimentary running back along with Le’Veon Bell. Sophomore Nick Hill carried the ball three times for minus-6 yards against Wisconsin and has 14 attempts for 11 yards on the season. Senior Larry Caper, who didn’t get a carry against the Badgers, has run 16 times for 85 yards but hasn’t had a carry since the Ohio State game in Week 5. Nine of his attempts and 66 of those yards came against Central Michigan.
“You’re always trying to find ways,” Salem said. “Is it Nick in motion? Is it Larry in third down or a situation to run the ball? You’re trying to find the next guy, so you give opportunities here and there. And again, then you get back to a guy that’s been getting yards to you consistently throughout the year. But we’ll always continue to try and find different ways to get guys the football.”
Jeremy Langford has moved back to running back, Salem said, and he’s “growing” during practice. Salem also said true freshman Nick Tompkins could become that next speed back, a la Edwin Baker.
Speaking of ACL injuries, Graham Couch reports that sophmore swingman Branden Dawson looked fantastic in his return from tearing his against Ohio State in March as MSU opened its exhibition slate with an over Northwood (Fla.).
Dawson scored eight of the Spartans’ first 10 points in the game, getting a block and a rebound while being unfazed when he was knocked to the floor at one point – all before the first media timeout. He played with a brace on his left knee on the advice of MSU’s training staff, after saying a day earlier that he’d likely play without it.
Tuesday, before the exhibition, Dawson told me he though he might never dunk again when he first suffered the injury.
“That thought came to my mind when the doctor told me I tore my ACL and that I’d be out for a couple months,” Dawson said. “But then the next day, he called and said I could come in and have surgery in the next two days. And then (later) he told me I was three months ahead of schedule, so that surprised me.
“Basically, it’s just no pain. I’ve just been going hard. Guys always ask me, ‘Do you ever think about it when you play?’ No, I don’t think about it, because when you think about it, that’s when something goes wrong. I just go out there and play.”
Tom Anastos’ team also has been battling through injuries and sickness the past week, and the MSU coach said he was struggling to put enough guys on the ice to hold a full practice on Tuesday.
One spot where he has a different type of issue: a goaltending competition. Freshman Jake Hildebrand earned his first college win in his first start on Saturday, after returning junior Will Yanakeff started the Spartans’ first five games. Anastos said he’d hope by Thursday to figure out who’d get the start in Friday’s home game against Bowling Green.
“You give a coach a reason to play you and keep you in the net,” Anastos said, “what coach isn’t gonna play you?”