Column: Are UConn’s injuries a coincidence, or a part of a larger problem?

Amida Brimah floats a basket over a group of ECU defenders during the Huskies 72-65 victory over the Pirates on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2016. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

Just a few days ago, the UConn men’s basketball team played with only six players and somehow managed to win. Yeah, that’s right, their bench was essentially Christian Vital and the walk-ons. While I could probably write an entire column about how Christian Foxen should get more minutes, that would just be re-stating the obvious. So I’m going to address something that I’ve seen maybe one person mention so far this season.

Is Kevin Ollie to blame for the proliferation of UConn’s injury problem?

Now, let’s make something clear. I’m not saying that Ollie is being reckless or taking crowbars to his players’ knees. What I am suggesting is that UConn’s injury situation has skyrocketed far past coincidental, and it’s time to consider holding the coaching staff somewhat accountable for this.

It seems a little strange to suggest that the coaches, who exist to guide the players, develop their talent and make them better, should even be held responsible for any injuries sustained. That side of the argument has its merit; after all, the injuries to Terry Larrier, Alterique Gilbert and Mamadou Diarra were in no way an issue the coaching staff could have done anything to prevent. And after all, it’s not their job to play doctor.

But what about these little ones? Steven Enoch has already missed two games with a right foot injury. Juwan Durham sprained his left foot against SMU and couldn’t play on Sunday. Who’s to say that Jalen Adams, who had a hurt quad before the season started, won’t strain it again because he has to play so many minutes?

Of course, the playing time issue is, unfortunately, out of Ollie’s control due to the roster constraints. But the sports world has seen this happen before: players who are unproperly strength-trained or loosely monitored will eventually have to be sidelined for a time with these petty injuries.

Take, for example, the 2016 New York Mets. Quite literally every single player on the 25-man roster (except for, like, Eric Campbell, of all people) sustained an injury at some point during the season. Some guys had multiple injuries, either to the same place (like Neil Walker’s back) or different areas. With 25 people on a roster, the fact that pretty much every single one of them was injured at some point speaks volumes about the coaching staff’s handling of the situation and the strength and training staff’s ability (or lack thereof) to control it.

UConn could be facing a similar problem, albeit on a much smaller scale. I’m not here to say what Ollie and the rest of his coaches do and don’t do during their practice sessions (because I really don’t know), but it doesn’t take an insider to see all of these injuries that keep popping up and not begin to question if it’s coincidental or not.

Ollie has stated multiple times in his press conferences that he leaves all of the injury details to his strength staff, meaning that his understanding of the injuries only goes as far as having to know what a quad strain means.

Maybe this is an issue. Maybe Ollie should take it upon himself to become a little more familiar with basic injury principles so he can better prevent them from happening. Enoch and Durham certainly didn’t get injuries because they’re playing too many minutes, so it begs the question: Did they just not train enough to strengthen properly, or were they ultimately trained in a harmful way?

The situation has far surpassed the “freak injury” status. If more players keep dropping like flies, it won’t be long before the starting five is made up of two scholarship players and three walk-ons. Until then, it might be time to start wondering just how big a role the coaching staff has in all this.


Stephanie Sheehan is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus, covering men’s basketball. She can be reached via email at stephanie.sheehan@uconn.edu. She tweets @steph_sheehan