(photo courtesy of WIU Athletics)
You suffered what would end up being a season-ending toe injury early last season. How did the injury occur and what was the nature of it?
CC: I went down in the Oral Roberts game in the beginning of the second half. They thought it was just a dislocated toe so I went to the doctors and they popped it back in place. I waited about two weeks to get back out there, had another MRI, and we found out there were some torn ligaments in my foot. So we went through the procedures of rehab and trying to get it better to get back that season. But we had to give it more time to heal, and with time it healed by itself. I didn’t have to have surgery -- it just healed on its own. Now I’m back to 100 percent.
Was there a point in the season where you thought you might come back, and if not when were you officially shut down for the year?
CC: I tried to come back a week after Christmas to give it another try, and I just didn’t have any push off of it. So I went week-by-week, and then around the middle of February they said there was nothing else we could do, so I was done for the year.
When were you given the green light to get back on the court this offseason?
CC: It was more toward the end of the semester around April or May when I started jogging and running again, but I wasn’t fully 100 percent until about June.
Going back to last year, against Missouri you guys showed that at full strength you could compete with a ranked team down to the wire. Knowing you could compete like that early on, what was going through head while you were watching the team struggle in January and February after all the injuries?
CC: It was very tough when we had bodies going down and down like that. It was rough not being able to help those guys out there on the court. I was just trying to think of different ways to help them, so there was a learning aspect for me because I saw it from a coaching standpoint where I could teach other players the knowledge I have [about the game]. I tried to work on other things like my strength since I wasn’t able to get out there and run. So in my head I knew we could have been really good last year, but we just had bad luck. Hopefully this year everybody can stay healthy and we can show people what we can do.
Now you have a full roster again and good health. You’ll be playing with a few newcomers and a couple of guys you haven’t played alongside in a game in over a year. What have you and your teammates been doing in the preseason to build chemistry again?
CC: We were here together this summer to try to build chemistry with lifting and open gyms. So we gained some chemistry there. Through the preseason we're just really try to stay together as a unit. That’s really key for us -- to be together as one. We’ve been relying on each other on and off the court so we can get that kind of chemistry. We’ve been playing a lot of basketball and playing really hard in practice so we can have that chemistry once the season starts.
What do you want to see from yourself and the team during in November and December to get ready for Summit League play in January and February?
CC: Establishing our defense. We’ve always been known as a defensive-minded team, and I feel that if we stick to the principles that Coach Molinari has given us then we can be well-prepared by the time we get to Summit League play. We just have to maintain our defense and keep working on our weaknesses on the offensive and defensive end. I feel like if we can keep pursuing those things then we can be ready for Summit League play.
And what are your hopes for the team once you get into conference play?
CC: Every team in any conference has a goal to win a conference championship. We really want to go out there and compete. We want to leave everything on the court and play as hard as we can each and every day and just try to improve. We know that if we improve in every practice and in every game we can go a long way.
Thanks to Ceola for taking the time to chat with us.