Ryan Phillips knew right away that something wasn’t right with his hand.
The Jacobs senior guard ran underneath a screen Feb. 2 against Hampshire and knocked his hand against an opponent’s back.
“When you watch it on film, it doesn’t even look like anything,” Jacobs basketball coach Jimmy Roberts said.
Phillips heard a pop and knew something was off. He mentioned it to the trainer but remained in the game awhile longer. X-rays later revealed a broken metacarpal bone in his right ring finger.
Phillips, the Golden Eagles’ leading scorer and rebounder, had surgery Thursday to insert a plate and screws. Doctors told Phillips it could be anywhere from three to five weeks before he returns to the basketball court.
Best case scenario, he might be back for a potential regional championship game. It all depends on how his bone recovers.
“Things were going well,” Phillips said. “It just [stinks] because I’m a senior and I was 50 points away from 1,000 points in my career. That stuff [stinks], personal goals I always wanted to achieve.”
Jacobs is 19-3 overall and 11-0 in the Fox Valley Conference. In Phillips, the Eagles lose a three-year starter who was averaging 14.7 points, 6.5 rebounds,
2.4 assists and 1.8 steals a game.
Kameron Mack scored 20 points in Phillips’ absence in a 41-29 win over Huntley on Tuesday. Jacobs will try to remain unbeaten in the FVC when it takes on Crystal Lake South at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s a big loss,” Roberts said. “With any basketball team that’s had the level of success that we’ve been fortunate enough to have, if you take any piece away, it’s going to hurt and have an impact. The nice luxury that we have is we have a number of guys who can play and put the ball in the basket.”
Roberts noted that not any one player is going to make up for Phillips’ production. Mack, Nik Balkcom and Daniel Murray are seniors who will carry their share of the load. Jaden Henderson, a sophomore, started Tuesday’s game in Phillips’ place.
Former Jacobs big man Cameron Krutwig had a teammate at Loyola go through the same injury this season. Loyola’s Ben Richardson missed about a month and a half with a broken metacarpal bone. Through the connection at Loyola, Phillips was able to get doctor recommendations from someone who had been through it before.
For Roberts, the loss of Phillips for the next few weeks – and possibly the remainder of season – is a little bit personal. Roberts often has said Phillips reminds him of himself as a high school kid, both on the court and off it.
“Ryan and I are extremely close,” Roberts said. “We have great relationships in our program. I see a whole bunch of myself in Ryan from when I was a kid. Not just as a player. We dress alike. The kids at school have made fun of us for years because we dress similar. And we’re very, very close. It makes it that much more difficult.”
Phillips will have his stitches out in 10 days, and from there he hopes to keep seeing improvement.
Jacobs has plenty to play for. The Eagles are in the driver’s seat in the FVC with a two-game lead. A regional title would be Jacobs’ third consecutive and fourth in five seasons.
“This is a kid and a group that faced a lot of challenges coming into the season,” Roberts said. “No Cam Krutwig. What are you going to be? People kind of doubting us. And here we sit at 19-3 and undefeated in our league.”
Both the coach and the senior leader hope they will have the chance to share one more opportunity on the basketball court together.
“It would mean the world to me,” Phillips said. “It’s just an unfortunate time for it to happen. It is what it is, though.”