Coach Pope remains upbeat despite early-season adversity
Seven games into the 2015-16 season, the Utah Valley University men’s basketball team has seen an unprecedented amount of bad luck when it comes to player health. Before the season started the Wolverines saw forward Zach Nelson out for the season with complications from knee surgery and guard Hayes Garrity aggravated a knee injury during rehabilitation.
Things haven’t looked much better since the season began with guards Ivory Young sustaining an ankle injury, Telly Davenport injuring his shoulder, and center Andrew Bastien missing a stint with a minor knee injury. Despite the long list of injuries to his players, head coach Mark Pope remains optimistic about where his team is headed.
“We’re not working with the guys we thought we’d be working with right now,” Pope said. “But this is great. This is great for our team and great for our staff, and this is an unbelievable opportunity for us to grow. One thing my guys are doing that I’m really proud of is, when you play as hard as they’re playing right now, then you grow.”
With many key players going down with injuries, it has given some of the players further down the bench a chance to step in and fill larger rolls. Walk-on forward Konner Frey has taken the opportunity for leadership and leads UVU in scoring at 17.7 points per game, and rebounding, 7.1 per game.
“We’re going to have some hard times, obviously,” Pope said. “I actually don’t mind building a foundation of a program on some hard times because that’s something that guys never forget. Then when things get going right, you savor it in a way that a lot of people don’t recognize.”
Growing pains are normal for a team like UVU with a new coach and system, but the quantity of injuries is an unusual case of bad luck. With the first month of the season out of the way, the Wolverines will look to get healthy as conference play draws closer.
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