The news of Nic Weishar's potential season-ending shoulder surgery earlier this week was greatly felt, particularly around the East Suburban Catholic Conference where Weishar's Marist Redhawks are the preseason favorite.
Marist is not only picked to win the ESCC, but it plays a killer schedule that includes a rugged ESCC slate, a holiday trip to Centralia, rival Brother Rice and a matchup with talented St. Rita. Marist even upgraded its schedule with a date with No. 1 Simeon in the City-Suburban Showdown in February. The Redhawks would have been a consensus top 10 team in the preseason rankings.
In all likelihood, Marist will remain among the top 10-12 teams in the preseason with the Division I backcourt duo of Lexus Williams (Valpo) and L.J. McIntosh (Pan American) returning. Those two, who will likely combine for 35-40 points each night out this winter, helped lead Marist to a 26-6 record a year ago and postseason upset wins over Curie and Bogan to reach the sectional championship.
So the Weishar injury is certainly not a death sentence for Marist, not with the talent and chemistry coach Gene Nolan has coming back. But it's a huge loss, nonetheless.
Weishar, one of the state's elite football prospects, had surgery on Tuesday. Although it's described as a "routine surgery" by Nolan, with healing and rehab it will likely keep Weishar out for the season.
The problem for Marist is that the 6-5 junior was more than just numbers for Nolan's Redhawks. Yes, he averaged 13.2 points and 7.6 rebounds a game last season as a sophomore. But his presence as a versatile athlete with experience and size was so valued, along with all the intangibles and toughness he brought.
If there is a glaring weakness with Marist as it heads into the season it is a lack of size and rebounding strength -- and that was before Weishar's injury. Add in the competitiveness he brought to the floor each night out and suddenly there is a lot less margin of error for Marist against quality opponents.
Each fall high school coaches around the state with players on the football team keep their fingers crossed and count down the games on the gridiron. They dread the thought of losing a player to a football injury just prior to the season or starting the season shorthanded due to a football playoff run. They often will wait a month for players to get their basketball legs back.
As schools like Loyola Academy and Benet Academy continue to advance in the football playoffs, coaches like Benet's Gene Heidkamp, Loyola's Tom Livatino -- and plenty of others around the state -- hope they get their players back in one piece.
Sadly for Marist, a team with such high expectations, that wasn't the case.
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