OWESPTS-12-07-21 KWC FEATURE

Kentucky Wesleyan’s Jordan Roland drives down the lane against Salem’s Barron Tanner during the first half on Nov. 29 at the Sportscenter.

The Panthers aren’t letting injuries slow them down.

The Kentucky Wesleyan College men’s basketball team, which will be without top scorer and second-leading rebounder Ben Sisson (ankle) and reserve guard Kaeveon Mitchell (leg) for the foreseeable future, is quickly adopting a “next-man-up” mentality.

“We’re hoping for good news on both of those individuals very, very soon,” KWC coach Drew Cooper said Monday night at his biweekly radio show. “Neither one of them practiced today. Each injury’s a little bit different, and the sooner we get them back, the better. Those two are key pieces for us.

“But, you know, the moment you lose someone to injury, the opportunity is there.”

Sisson, a 6-foot-6 junior forward who’s averaging 16 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, went down with an ankle injury near the end of Wesleyan’s 81-80 win over Salem on Nov. 29.

In the Panthers’ following outing, a 72-64 overtime loss to conference foe Hillsdale on Thursday, Mitchell was the biggest beneficiary of increased playing time. He scored seven points in 27 minutes of action — both career-high marks for the sophomore guard out of Breckinridge County High School.

Once Mitchell was unavailable for KWC’s 84-74 win against Findlay two days later, freshman forward Eddie Jones stepped in to fill the void.

The New Orleans native scored five points and grabbed three rebounds in a season-high 27 minutes of action.

“Eddie Jones had a nice game for us on Saturday,” Cooper said, “and that was not surprising by any stretch. Eddie’s practiced well, and in many ways deserves the opportunity. You don’t want to do it at the expense of an injury, obviously, but Eddie was the next man up for us and played well. Hit a 3 in the first half, got an offensive rebound and a putback, did some nice things defensively for us. Eddie’s got a lot of potential.

“His upside is very, very high. We were happy to give him the opportunity to get him out there, and he certainly showed up for us and did his thing.”

Another player who’s stepped up recently, Cooper noted, has been 6-11 senior center Sasha Sukhanov, who helped secure the win against Salem with a big-time defensive rebound in traffic that set up Jordan Roland’s game-winning foul shot.

“Sasha is someone who’s in his third year of the program,” Cooper said. “His minutes have gone down a little bit this year because of remarkable development from Ben Sisson. It wasn’t anything that Sasha has done wrong. In fact, Sasha has been as dependable as he has been in terms of coming in every day and really learning what this is supposed to look like, being a part of a high-level college basketball program.

“Sasha has had the best year since he’s been a part of our community.”

With other players getting the opportunity to gain experience in Sisson’s absence, Cooper hopes it helps the team’s depth as the year progresses — and, eventually, when Sisson returns to the lineup.

“You take Ben Sisson and how he’s come along, not just during the basketball seasons but during the summers and his buy-in and his belief in everything that we do,” Cooper said. “Ben has been extremely valuable to us, and we’ve missed him. We miss him right now, and hoping for the best for him very soon.”

The Panthers, who sit at 5-3 overall and 1-1 against Great Midwest Athletic Conference competition, return to action Thursday to kick off a two-game conference road trip. KWC will face Walsh on Thursday before making a Saturday visit to Malone.

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