This summer, sophomore Damian Hollis received an ominous text message from his classmate and point guard Travis King. King had hurt his kneecap in a pickup game in New Haven, Conn., the message said, but there was good news: He would be back before the start of the season.
Hollis and the rest of GW’s men’s basketball team prepared for the season under the assumption that Carl Elliott’s void would be capably filled by King, who had impressed fans during his freshman year.
King played one minute this season (Nov. 14 against Boston University) before re-injuring his kneecap and having season-ending surgery, a series of events Hollis called “a shock to the whole team.”
“We miss him all the time,” Hollis added. “Last year he made a huge impact and we were expecting him to be back and be as good, if not better. It would have been great to have him now because he pushes the ball up so fast and is so solid with the ball.”
Left with no experienced point guard on the roster, GW has been forced to plug the hole with parts that do not fit. After Sunday’s loss to Auburn – its third straight – in which they turned the ball over 21 times, it is apparent that the Colonials’ problems will be season-long.
“I try to not talk about him, but we miss Travis greatly, as you can see,” Hobbs said. “We went from a team that used to average 12 to 13 turnovers a game to almost 20-something.”
“Not having him is getting close to being devastating,” he added.
Senior Maureece Rice, a natural shooting guard, has been the main ball-handler since King’s injury, but he has struggled. For the past three years, Rice has been asked to focus on one thing: scoring. This year, he has been asked to score and run the fast break. He is just averaging 9.9 points per game and during a fastbreak with less than two minutes left against Auburn, Rice’s alley-oop pass to junior Cheyenne Moore came up well short, resulting in a turnover.
Junior Wynton Witherspoon has been one of the team’s most consistent players, but he is a shooting guard or small forward by trade. Freshman Miles Beatty has shown signs of coming along, but he is still raw. And 5-foot-8 sophomore walk-on Johnny Lee has proved not to be a viable option in limited time.
None of those players would be Hobbs’s first pick to run the team, but he doesn’t have a choice.
“You’ve got to play the guys you have,” Hobbs said.
Opposing teams take advantage of GW’s deficiencies, forcing out-of-position players to make plays, leading to fastbreak baskets for the other team. Hollis said that Hobbs has told his players to adopt the mantra of “simple and solid” in hopes of reducing turnovers, but he couldn’t help but state the obvious.
Hollis said, “It would be a lot better if Travis was there.”