Saul Phillips is paid for one job, when in fact he has two: coach of the Bobcats and manager of the Bobcats’ expectations.
With a foot injury hampering forward Jason Carter, the team’s offensive focal point, Ohio (1-0) will play three games in four days at the Gildan Charleston Classic in South Carolina, beginning Thursday with a 5 p.m. start on ESPN2 against Clemson (2-0).
“We were making a transition anyway, this year,” Phillips said of his team, which graduated two of last year’s starters in the offseason and lost another via graduate transfer. “We’ve had some additional stress put on us by Jason missing some time. But I tried to emphasize with these guys from the get-go that this is gonna be a journey.”
After Carter hobbled off the court two Saturdays ago in an exhibition against Capital, Phillips shrugged off the incident and gave no indication that Carter would need to miss any time.
The mood was precautionary then. It feels less so now.
Carter, a sophomore who played in every game last year and finished in the team’s top five in points, rebounds, blocks, steals, shooting percentage and minutes, missed Saturday’s season opener, a 61-53 win over Alabama A&M.
He also didn’t practice Monday and instead wore a walking boot on his right foot and rode a stationary bike. The Bobcats flew to South Carolina on Tuesday.
Gavin Block said the team was notified “midweek” last week that Carter would not play against Alabama A&M. That means if Carter isn’t playing Thursday against Clemson, the players probably already know.
“I’m gonna handle this probably the same way the whole way through, which is I’ll let you know the day he’s going to play,” Phillips said.
Deep-freeze from deep
James Gollon sat on the couch in Phillips’ office Monday to talk to his coach about something neither of them could figure out.
Gollon, who Phillips called “one of the best shooters (he’s) ever coached,” has yet to hit a 3-pointer in either of the Bobcats’ two exhibition games or their regular season opener. Unfortunately for Ohio, some of Gollon’s teammates share similar struggles.
The sample size is tiny, but through two official games, the Bobcats are shooting just 11-for-41 (26.8 percent) from 3-point range.
“I would be really freaked out about our shooting if we hadn’t kept stats all preseason,” Phillips said. “And we shot it at a very high rate. And you say, ‘Well, that’s in practice.’ We’re pretty good at defending the three, too.”
Mike Laster, whose preseason 3-point shooting hovered around 50 percent according to Phillips, has been 1-for-8 in his past two games. Even Jordan Dartis, the 11th-best 3-point shooter in NCAA Division I last season (44.1 percent), has room to climb. He’s off to a 4-for-12 (33.3 percent) start.
Phillips understands how young the season is and that shooting percentages have ebbs and flows. Still, he’s eager to see a turnaround for players such as Gollon, who is expected to hit threes as a significant part of his role this season.
“You can’t wish the ball into the net,” Phillips said. “(Gollon) needs to trust the fact that he’s worked tirelessly on his shot and just keep it that simple.”