‘No excuses’ for a healthy, ready SDSU squad

by Edward Lewis

Antonio Zaragoza / Photo Editor
Antonio Zaragoza / Photo Editor

Billy White strolled to Monday afternoon’s press conference with a bandage on his right forearm.

It didn’t look like anything serious, but it warranted a question to San Diego State’s senior forward.

“It’s just a scratch,” he said. “It’s all good.”

The Aztecs, besides a scratch, are fine.

That’s something they couldn’t say this time last year after their Mountain West Conference Tournament Championship.

Sophomore guard Chase Tapley had a broken hand after that tournament. Senior guard D.J. Gay’s back was sore and his whole body hurt after he played 119 out of a possible 120 minutes in the tournament. Sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard said his legs were tired. And sixth man Tyrone Shelley was still nursing a broken foot, toe and thumb.

But this year, two days after the MWC Tournament, nobody was limping, gimping or ice packing. Everyone said they were fine. The only guy with a gripe was White, and his scratch won’t keep him from blocking shots and dunking basketballs.

“We’re pretty healthy right now, knock on wood,” head coach Steve Fisher said. “We’re in good shape physically and I know we’re in good shape emotionally. So we’ll be ready to go. We’ll have no excuses for how we play.”

A lot of SDSU’s health has to do with Fisher’s masterful substitutions in this year’s MWC Tournament. Last year, Gay was forced to play 40, 40 and 39 minutes in the three-game tournament. This year, he was able to go 35, 40, and 34, an average of almost four minutes more rest per game.

The rest of the three returning tournament starters saw their time off the court increase as well. Senior forward Malcolm Thomas played two less minutes per game, Leonard played two less minutes per game and White played three less minutes per game. It all translated into healthy bodies, Gay said.

“We’re feeling a lot better,” Gay said. “A lot more people got a lot more rest this time around … I feel great. Since I didn’t have to play 40 minutes each game at the conference tournament this time around, I feel a lot better.”

It was a sentiment echoed by nearly every player on the team.

“This year, as a team, we all worked hard in the off-season,” Leonard said. “So I think we’re ready to go for this last six-game stretch.”

The Aztecs will have had four days off before they take on Northern Colorado today in Tucson, Ariz. White said his scratch, and everybody else’s bumps and bruises, will all be ready by then.

“We’re fine,” he said. “We’re ready to go.”