In a road game against Southern Utah, sophomore guard Saylair Grandon broke her finger causing her to be sidelined.
The injury comes after Brooke Blair was lost for the season at the beginning of the year with a knee injury, leaving the Bengals with two offensive weapons in the training room.
Along with Blair and Grandon, Grace Kenyon has been battling a pesky knee injury that has limited her role at times this season.
“There’s been times as a team when we’ve had to overcome stuff with other injuries,” Grandon said. “Everybody’s just doing a little extra, filling in their spots, and just taking on a different role, something a little more than what they’re usually doing.”
Blair was the team’s second leading scorer last season, averaging 12.4 points per game while Grandon averaged 6.9 minutes per contest off of the bench.
This season, Grandon has replaced the 12.4 points per game missing, due to Blair’s absence, by averaging 11.4 points per game, good enough to lead the team and rank in the top ten in the Big Sky Conference for scoring.
Kenyon is averaging over 10 points per game despite being limited to under 30 minutes per game on ten different occasions.
The injuries mean the Bengals have to adapt to even more changes.
“[Grandon] was starting to emerge as a go-to player for us,” said head coach Seton Sobolewski. “She was someone who had the ability to create her own shot, and I think every team needs one or two people who can do that.”
Her new role admittedly came with some increased pressure to perform well for her team. However, a humble outlook helped Grandon deal with the responsibility, she said.
“At the end of the day, you kind of have to realize the opportunity that you’re in and that it’s fun,” Grandon said. “So [it’s] not pressure like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to mess up.’ It’s a wonderful opportunity that not everybody has, so you’ve just got to take advantage of it.”
A close bond between teammates contributes to her performance as well.
That bond is what drew the lifelong basketball player to Idaho State—the connection between the coaching staff and team was instant, Grandon said. The camaraderie eased her transition from Arizona to Idaho and continues to aid her playing today.
“Having to move away from home for the first time … is a crazy transition so having everyone so close and friendly with each other really makes it a lot easier,” she said. “Having such a good friendship and relationship with everyone on the team makes basketball a lot easier.”
Though her role has changed this season, the team isn’t resting solely on Grandon’s shoulders.
Estefania Ors, Bianca Thacker and Brittany Kochenderfer have all stepped up to fill injury-related gaps, according to Sobolewski. Kochenderfer hit a career-high against Sacramento State, and Ors led the team with 22 points against North Dakota last Thursday.
The loss of crucial upperclassmen isn’t ideal, Sobolewski said, since the players who must step up are often young and inexperienced, but the team has made the best of the situation.
“When injuries like this happen, especially to people who play a lot of minutes for you, you don’t just look at one person to fill the role,” he said. “It has to happen collectively.”