North Texas was in the middle of another adjustment to its lineup during practice Tuesday as a big chunk of what was supposed to be its guard/wing rotation looked on.
Jacob Holmen was in a courtside seat nursing a case of plantar fasciitis, while Clarke Overlander sat nearby wondering what the diagnosis would be after injuring his right knee the day before.
T.J. Taylor was there, passing the time during his redshirt year after transferring from Marquette, while Brandan Walton hoisted shots on the free end of the court, which is all he can do while recovering from a broken foot.
About the only missing member of UNT’s collection of missing pieces was Chris Jones, the starting point guard who also has a broken foot.
Head coach Tony Benford said that in his 21 years in coaching he has seen nothing like what UNT (6-10, 1-4 Sun Belt) has endured heading into a game at Arkansas-Little Rock (9-8, 3-3) today, when the Mean Green will try to cobble together an effective lineup with the players it has left.
“We are playing with a lot of guys out of position right now,” Benford said. “We are trying to manage it, mix and match, and do some different things. We are really changing some things up as far as what we are doing offensively and defensively right now. We have to. We don’t have the numbers and the bodies to do the things we would like to do.”
The situation got a little worse just hours after Benford commented Tuesday on the situation. UNT found out early Wednesday that Overlander has a sprained anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that will keep him out two to four weeks.
Without Overlander, UNT likely will be down to eight scholarship players and freshman walk-on Austin Mitchell today against the Trojans.
“We are losing wings and guards,” senior forward Roger Franklin said. “One thing we like about this team is that we have players who can play multiple positions.”
UNT will have players taking on new roles today.
Tony Mitchell, UNT’s 6-foot-8 star forward, will play more on the perimeter, which won’t be much of an adjustment for the Sun Belt’s Preseason Player of the Year.
Niko Stojiljkovic, a 6-9 forward, and Justin Patton, a 6-7 forward, also will play more on the perimeter. That will be a bit of an adjustment for both, especially Stojiljkovic.
Austin Mitchell will see his role expand after playing just 10 minutes in UNT’s first 16 games.
“We have to make some changes and simplify some things that we do because guys are learning new positions,” Benford said. “We want to make it as simple as possible. We will also play more zone.”
UNT will look to get the ball to Tony Mitchell at every opportunity. The sophomore is averaging 14.8 points and 9.1 rebounds a game to lead the Mean Green.
UALR is led by Will Neighbour, a 6-10 junior who is averaging 11.4 points per game.
The Trojans have been a defensive-oriented team throughout the tenure of coach Steve Shields and rank fourth in the Sun Belt with an average of 65.9 points allowed a game.
Cracking UALR’s defense will be even tougher for UNT with so many of top shooters out.
“We are lacking shooters sometimes, but we still have guys who can shoot the ball,” Patton said. “We haven’t been able to knock down shots all year, but it’s coming around.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .