By ANDY WOLF
Alex White wants to be his team’s biggest cheerleader.
At 6-foot-7 he likely will be.
Though he’d rather be on the court, the University of Findlay sophomore is out for the remainder of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
“I think they’ll appreciate that,” White said. “I can always hype them up.”
White sustained his injury in the first game back from Christmas break in a nonleague game against Trevecca Nazarene.
He had a relatively uncontested path to the bucket in a fast break but his right knee buckled as he planted to redirect his body and draw contact with a trail defender.
White felt a pop and not too large of an amount of pain.
He remained on the ground for a few minutes before walking off under his own power.
“When I was at the trainer’s table, I was in shock,” White said, having only sustained minor ankle injuries before. “I couldn’t really extended (the knee).”
White’s plan to return to the court after halftime got thrown out after the knee tweaked again during warmups.
The eventual diagnosis of his season-ending injury came as a surprise to him.
It also ended a promising sophomore campaign in which he started all 11 games while averaging 7.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and a block per game.
“I think to start the season I started out a little slow,” White said. “I was just starting to find where I was really fitting in, contributions to the team.”
As a freshman he came off the bench to spell senior John Staley — the most efficient scorer in UF history who also set the tone defensively with extra hustle and by taking charges.
“One of the big things I thought of this year was I had to pick up where John Staley left off,” White said. “We have scorers, maybe need somebody to be at the defense.”
UF coach Charlie Ernst saw a player in White finally coming into his own.
White was a huge factor in the trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula by posting a career-high 17 points (8-of-9 shooting) in a 100-56 win over Michigan Tech two games before the injury.
“Some of the things he was continuing to work on was his confidence of being physical around the rim,” Ernst said. “(Also) learning how to play consistently with his back to basket.”
White is the second UF starter to go down as point guard Austin Gardner was lost five games prior with a left knee injury.
Joining Gardner on the sideline, White hopes to up his basketball IQ in learning from someone he considers to be “one of the smartest he’s played with”.
Down but certainly not out, the Oilers have kept on fighting and have won seven straight games.
Today they’ll face Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and South Division foe Hillsdale (6-8, 2-6 GLIAC) 8 p.m. at Potter Arena in Hillsdale, Mich. in their only contest of the week.
Findlay, 12-3 overall, finished North Division play opposite of Hillsdale at 6-2. They’re two games up on everyone in the South Division which they’ll face home and away.
Senior Tyler Stern-Tucker has started in place of White and is averaging 17.5 points in the last two GLIAC games.
Hillsdale has been without one of its starters in junior Ryan Badowski (12.9 ppg).
Ernst learned Badowski missed the last six games with mono but is preparing for the game as if he’ll play.
Chargers junior Stedman Lowry has continued to lead the team in scoring (15.6 ppg) and rebounding (5.2 rpg).
“At times he can put them on his back offensively,” Ernst said.
Hillsdale also sports a pair of senior bigs in Rhett Smith (6-7) and Matt Archer (6-8).
Each average multiple attempts from 3-point range per game with Ernst noting both can pop off screens and step beyond the arc.
The UF women’s team (8-8, 2-6) will also be in action against Hillsdale (9-6, 3-5) at 6 p.m. today.
The Oilers are one of two GLIAC teams without a player averaging 10 points per game.
Lynsey Englebrecht (9.3 ppg), Christa Puthoff (9.3) and Anna Hintz (9.2) have proved to be a strong and consistent scoring trio for an oft-struggling offense.
Hintz is coming off a career night of 23 points and 11 rebounds in UF’s 76-67 win over Wayne State.
The Chargers have struggled offensive as well, ranking in the bottom three in field goal (38.6) and 3-point percentage (25.6).
Hillsdale can counterbalance some of that by leading the GLIAC in offensive rebounds (15.3).
Last year, the Oilers overcame the Chargers grabbing 18 offensive boards to post a 79-60 home win.
Englebrecht led with 21 points while Karli Bonar chipped in 17 points.
Bonar (6.5 ppg), the lone senior on the team, has been held scoreless in the last two games.
She had only gone without a point three of the previous 94 games.
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