Northwestern State will be without its leading scorer for some time, though the exact length of his absence is somewhat unknown.
Zeek Woodley, who has led the Demons in scoring for three-straight seasons, will undergo surgery Friday for a broken wrist, the school announced Thursday. The 6-foot-2 senior could miss six-to-eight weeks, but the procedure he will undergo is being done with the hope that it “should improve chances for a faster recovery and return,” Northwestern State said in its release.
”It’s not exactly the Christmas present that he or I or our team was looking for,” coach Mike McConathy said, “but we’ll get through this and hopefully he’ll be back with us very soon.”
Woodley sustained the injury Monday in the first half of the team’s 100-93 loss to Rice, but stayed in the game and scored 10 second-half points.
“Hopefully it will heal quickly,” Woodley said. “I’ve just got to stay positive. I have faith in the team.
“My best friends, Sabri (Thompson) and Tra’von (Joseph), are the seniors who have to lead them until I get back. We can be a good team. They can get better, get better chemistry, while I’m gone.”
Woodley is averaging 17.6 points per game this season and is 70 away from the school’s all-time career record.
“It’s going to be tough because this is my last year,” Woodley said, “and I just want to play, but I have to wait patiently.”
The Demons are 5-5 on the year and placed Louisiana College next Wednesday before beginning Southland Conference play.
A second knee injury in one year may cost one of the country’s top point guards a second season.
Northwestern State’s Jalan West re-injured his left knee last week and may not be healthy enough to play the upcoming season, the school announced Tuesday. West tore his ACL and suffered cartilage damage while doing a drill in practice.
West, who averaged at least 19 points per game in his last two full seasons, was granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA this spring after the initial knee injury, suffered in the Demons’ 2015-16 season opener, sidelined him.
“He was cleared to practice. It’s agonizing for this to happen for such a top quality person, who has worked so hard to get back to full speed,” said coach Mike McConathy in a statement.
“He’s the kind of person you want to coach, you dream of coaching. He’s told us that what hurts so badly is that he has such a desire to win a championship with this group of teammates who have stood by him.”
Northwestern State isn’t ruling out a return by West this season as an aggressive rehab schedule could have him ready to hit the court by March, but given the severity of the injury and that it’s the second time he’s injured the same knee, that would appear to be an incredibly optimistic forecast.
“It can take six months, it can take eight or 10 months,”McConathy said. “We do know Jalan will do all he can to get back to full speed.”
The loss of West is a significant one not only for Northwestern State, but college basketball at large. West was one of the game’s more dynamic offensive players at 5-foot-10, averaging 20 points and 7.7 assists as a junior. The Demons went 8-20 last season without him.
Few tandems in college basketball last season were as productive as Northwestern State guards Jalan West and Zeek Woodley, and with both players returning Mike McConathy’s Demons were seen as the biggest threat to two-time defending champion Stephen F. Austin in the Southland Conference. Tuesday afternoon the program announced news that will undoubtedly impact it’s pursuit of an NCAA tournament berth, with a torn ACL ending West’s season after just one game.
West suffered the injury in the final minute of Northwestern State’s season opening loss at Ole Miss Friday night, and the school will apply for a medical redshirt that would open the door for a return in 2016-17 as a fifth-year senior.
Without West even more responsibility falls upon the shoulders of Woodley, who last season led the team with an average of 22.2 points per game. But in West the Demons lose a player who not only averaged 20.0 points per game but also led the nation with 7.7 assists per contest. That kind of player, one who can both get hot himself (he scored 24 of his 25 points Friday night in the second half) and set up others, isn’t easily replaceable.
Sophomore Devonte Hall, who accounted for two points, five rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes of action against Ole Miss, is one player who will need to step into that point guard role moving forward. As for the scoring, guards Malik Metoyer (freshman) and Sabri Thompson (junior) will see increased scoring opportunities with West sidelined.
It all started with this tweet a month ago:
That’s Jalan West, the star of Northwestern State and one of the best mid-major guards in the country, challenging the school’s president to a game of HORSE.
Dr. Jim Henderson accepted the challenge, and while the two spent roughly a month talking trash on twitter, on Monday evening, they finally got together in Henderson’s backyard. Henderson took an early lead on West, but the diminutive point guard finished off the comeback by … using Henderson’s wife as a weapon?
Throughout this week coaching staffs have eschewed the usual dress shoes in favor of sneakers, with the “Suits and Sneakers” initiative being sponsored by Coaches vs. Cancer. But for some staffs, wearing sneakers with a suit is viewed as a fashion faux pas and they’ve decided to dress down some.
And then there’s Mike McConathy and his staff at Northwestern State. For the Demons’ game against McNeese State on Saturday, the staff wore some impressive pants that can be seen below. Northwestern State won the game in convincing fashion, 92-68, with one of the better perimeter tandems that doesn’t get a whole lot of national attention leading the way.
Jalan West finished the game with 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, and fellow guard Zikiteran “Zeek” Woodley added 23 points on 10-for-15 shooting along with three blocks and two steals.
While college basketball fans are watching for Coach K closing in on 1,000 career wins this week, a few respected Division I head coaches hit milestone coaching win totals with wins on Saturday.
Belmont head coach Rick Byrd won for the 700th time in the Bruins’ win over Austin Peay. Byrd has made the NCAA Tournament six times at the school and has 608 of his wins at Belmont.
Northwestern State head coach Mike McConathy took his 600th victory in the Demons’ win over Lamar. McConathy has been at Northwestern State for 16 seasons and been to the NCAA Tournament three times, most notably in 2006 when his No. 14-seeded Demons took down Iowa for the big first-round upset.