Boise State Basketball

As injuries pile up for Boise State, Rice says he won’t burn redshirts for short-term gain

Boise State’s Rice addresses injuries, redshirts ahead of trip to Drake

Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice talks about the Broncos’ injured players, the status of his redshirt freshmen and a quick turnaround at Drake.
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Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice talks about the Broncos’ injured players, the status of his redshirt freshmen and a quick turnaround at Drake.

Five different Boise State men’s basketball players have been hampered by injuries just five games into the 2018-19 season.

The lineup instability has played a part in the Broncos’ 2-3 start, but coach Leon Rice doesn’t plan on making any rash decisions ahead of Boise State’s game at Drake (3-1) on Tuesday. Tipoff is 6 p.m. MT at the Knapp Center in Des Moines, Iowa.

“I just know that every decision I’ve made in the short term, I’ve regretted that I didn’t make it in the long term,” Rice said during a press conference Monday. “... I don’t want to do a knee jerk and take somebody off redshirt and then we get everybody healthy again and they don’t play.”

Justinian Jessup (knee), Zach Haney (back spasms), RJ Williams (shoulder), Cam Christon (broken nose) and Alex Hobbs (concussion, ankle) have each dealt with early injuries, creating a depth issue for the Broncos, particularly at last week’s three-game Cayman Islands Classic.

The Broncos also have five freshmen and senior Robin Jorch (shoulder injury) scheduled to redshirt this season, leaving just five healthy Broncos on the roster.

“You want all those pieces together to see how it can function,” Rice said. “But you just have to kind of deal with what’s thrown at you, and that’s what our guys have been doing a good job of.”

Recovery time has been in short supply. The Broncos returned from George Town, Grand Cayman, on Friday night and were back on a plane Monday afternoon bound for Drake. Boise State then plays at Grand Canyon (4-3) on Saturday in Phoenix.

Rice said he does expect Williams — the Broncos’ leading scorer (17.5) and rebounder (7.3) — to play against the Bulldogs after sitting out the team’s 73-70 loss to Illinois State in the final game of the Cayman Islands Classic. Jessup and Haney have mostly played through their injuries, and Rice has not provided a timetable for the return of Hobbs or Christon.

“(RJ’s) doing a lot better,” Rice said. “I think it was a freak deal where he just got hit wrong in the shoulder and he woke up the next day and couldn’t even move his shoulder on his shooting hand. That was tough.”

The early adversity has led to the first 2-3 start since 2006-07 under then-head coach Greg Graham.

“You lose one game on the very last play with 0.6 seconds to go (Idaho State), and you lose another one on one possession (Illinois State), so with a little bit of better play, you could be 4-1,” Rice said. “You’re not getting beat by 30. ... I see the pieces, we just have to keep getting them better and get them playing the right way, and that’s going to take some time. There is no speeding up experience.”

Note: The NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), a new ranking system to replace the RPI in men’s Division I basketball, debuted Monday. Boise State checked in at No. 223, eighth-best among Mountain West programs. ... This is the final season of the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge. Boise State is 4-1 in challenge games.

First women’s RPI of season released

A tougher nonconference schedule and a strong start have boosted the Boise State women’s basketball team, which debuted at No. 45 in the first RPI rankings of the 2018-19 season.

The Broncos (5-1) have the highest ranking among Mountain West teams and a strength of schedule that ranks 67th.

Boise State’s next game is at 2 p.m. MT Saturday at Washington State (2-4).