With preseason all-NJCAA selection Mickey Wheeler on the mend from offseason shoulder surgery, the Scottsdale Community College men’s basketball team was looking forward to finally seeing its backcourt at full strength.
The sophomore point guard had been practicing with the Artichokes, and was cleared to play in Scottsdale’s Charros Holiday Tournament from Dec. 28-30.
Not only did Wheeler not make it back, the other half of the backcourt tandem — leading scorer Ladi Makinde — is now lost as well.
Wheeler suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in a pickup game prior
to the tournament, likely ending his season.
Makinde then suffered a severely sprained right ankle in the first five minutes of the Artichokes’ first tournament game, putting him on the shelf for four to six weeks.
“This makes a huge difference,” Scottsdale coach Paul Eberhardt said. “Now other guys have got to step up, or we’re not going to be very good.”
Wheeler will most likely take a medical redshirt. If redshirted, he would have one year of eligibility left at Scottsdale, or three more at a four-year university. Eberhardt said he would let Wheeler decide whether to return next season or not.
Makinde is not expected back until the end of January, at the earliest. Competing without two of its top players, Scottsdale made a respectable showing in the tournament. It finished 1-2, with the losses coming to national heavyweights Shelton State College (Ala.) and Monroe (N.Y.) by an average of nine points.
Shelton went on to win the tournament.
It was the first year of what Eberhardt hopes to be an annual event.
“It was a lot of work, but it was well received,” he said. “We’re going to try to make it an annual thing. Half of the teams have already expressed an interest in coming back.”
The Artichokes get back into Arizona Community College Athletic Conference play with a game tonight against Yavapai. The Roughriders have been bitten heavily by the injury bug as well, as they will have just seven healthy bodies for the contest.
With four straight nonconference wins, Chandler-Gilbert is making a push for a top-10 ranking in the NJCAA’s Division II poll. The Coyotes currently sit at No. 13.
The team’s only ACCAC conference loss of the season was to Central Arizona, which is the top-ranked team in Division I.
Chandler-Gilbert will play Southwestern College (Chula Vista, Calif.) on Monday before resuming conference play against South Mountain on Jan. 11. It gets a rematch with Central Arizona on Feb. 8.