Ohio forward Jason Carter doesn’t enjoy being away from the basketball court. Since high school, he can’t remember the last time he had to take more than a week off.
Carter returned to practice Monday to snap a month-long absence, which was caused by a lower right leg injury. Now he and the Bobcats are hoping he’ll be ready for Thursday when Ohio plays at Maryland at 8 p.m.
“It’s like a fresh start, almost, now,” Carter said. “Just watching and watching the guys go, it’s been fun but I obviously miss it … Especially in those games that are close and you can’t be out there helping the team. But it helped me in just learning how much I miss the game.”
The Bobcats have certainly missed him, too. Carter, the team’s fourth-leading scorer and leading rebounder from a year ago, hasn't played in any of the seven regular season games.
During practice in late September, he thought he’d sprained his ankle but opted to play through it. Two days after facing Capital on Nov. 4, the pain kept building and was becoming too much to bear.
His injury was due to overuse. The time off forced Carter to take a break — something he never does.
“I probably needed this,” he said.
Coach Saul Phillips said he’s optimistic Carter will play against Maryland, but the final evaluation won’t happen until Thursday and will be based on whether Carter reports any pain. In the event he does play, he won’t start and his minutes will be limited.
“Somewhere under 30 (minutes),” Phillips said, jokingly.
If Carter can go for Ohio (4-3), his return would come at a convenient time against the lengthy Terrapins (7-3), who have six players who are 6-foot-7 or taller averaging double-digit minutes.
The Bobcats have spent most of their games with 6-foot-9 forward Doug Taylor as the only true “big man,” along with 6-foot-7 forward Kevin Mickle, who just returned from a two-game absence.
Carter, at 6-foot-8, would be helpful below the rim, where Maryland is averaging an 11-rebound advantage over its opponents.
“They’ll be able to exploit us in ways that maybe some other teams won’t be able to,” Phillips said.
On paper, Maryland presents Ohio’s tallest non-conference task. The Terrapins have reached three-straight NCAA Tournaments and are shooting just shy of 50 percent as a team through 10 games.
Phillips said he wants his players to play “with the fearlessness of an underdog.” If Carter is healthy enough to be on the court, that underdog distinction will shrink a bit.
But no matter what happens in Thursday’s game, Ohio is still in the process of regaining its health. Upsetting the Terrapins won’t make or break its season, which is a perspective Phillips certainly keeps.
“If you asked me if I’d rather win this one and lose a couple more in the MAC,” Phillips said, “I’d take the MAC (wins) every week. It just helps you more.”