North Texas’ run of injuries that head coach Tony Benford had already described as the most devastating he has seen in his coaching career became even worse Monday.
Senior forwards Jacob Holmen and Justin Patton, a pair of players who were expected to be major parts of UNT’s rotation at the beginning of the season, both elected over the weekend to end their college careers due to injuries.
Holmen suffered his third concussion in a little more than a year in a win over South Alabama on Jan. 12 and had not played since, while Patton had struggled to recover from preseason surgery on his right knee. Patton was in and out of the lineup throughout the season and did not play in UNT’s overtime loss to Arkansas State on Saturday.
Patton needs a second surgery on his knee.
“Those are good kids, and we are worried about their long-term health,” Benford said.
“Jacob has had [three] concussions, and we don’t want to take a chance. He is still having headaches. Justin can’t move or guard anyone at this point with his knee.”
UNT (8-16) has now lost four players to season-ending injuries. Brandan Walton broke his right foot in a season-opening loss to Creighton on Nov. 9, while Jones broke his right foot in a loss to Western Kentucky on Jan. 29.
Freshman guard Clarke Overlander missed four games in January with a sprained anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
UNT also is without Marquette transfer T.J. Taylor. The team’s coaching staff thought Taylor would be eligible this season but found out beforehand that he would have to sit out as a transfer.
Taylor has since undergone surgery on the labrum in his right shoulder.
UNT’s run of injuries has left the Mean Green short, particularly in the backcourt. Freshmen P.J. Hardwick and Overlander are two of the four guards UNT has available. Both have seen their playing time increase dramatically late in the season.
UNT has moved 6-foot-9 senior Niko Stojiljkovic to a guard spot at times over the last few weeks. The Mean Green has lost four straight and seven of its last nine.
UNT was the preseason favorite to win the Sun Belt Conference West Division title but at 3-10 is in second-to-last place in the overall conference standings.
“We have other guys who are going to have to step up and contribute,” Benford said. “I have never been through anything like this. No one in our league has gone through something like that. It affected us.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is email@example.com .