Rider head coach Kevin Baggett said he expects sophomore Khalil Thomas, who has missed the last 13 games due to a fractured left foot suffered in the team’s final game before holiday break, to return on Friday.
“I do I expect him to be playing the Canisius game on Friday,” Baggett said of getting the sophomore who started the team’s first 12 games back. “His role has changed for us, being where we are six games remaining, but it gives us another athletic body, another post presence, another guy that can rebound and defend and score around the basket.”
The third year head coach of the Broncs said the 6’7″ sophomore practiced with the team this week and should provide another key presence in the front court against the Golden Griffins and Purple Eagles. Canisius is missing the services of sophomore Phil Valenti, who is out indefinitely with an injury to his right ankle as well as Jermaine Crumpton with a broken bone in his right foot.
The last time Thomas appeared on the floor for Rider, the team was at an even .500 record (6-6), since then they have gone 10-3 and sit a game ahead Manhattan and Monmouth for second place in the MAAC. However, Baggett will certainly welcome back Thomas who averaged 6.7 ppg and 4.7 rpg before missing time.
The last time the Broncs were in second place in the conference was Baggett’s first season as head coach, where his team went into the season’s final weekend hoping for a sweep of the Buffalo trip to attain the conference’s second seed. Two seasons ago, prior to their trip, he said “I’d be okay [with a split]. I’d sign on to that, I certainly would.” His team then proceeded to be the only one in the conference that year to sweep the Buffalo swing. This time, he said he looks forward to the challenge of pulling out two wins again in western New York.
“Any time you want to go up there honestly and win both, but if we have a chance to split I wouldn’t be disappointed in that as well,” Baggett said. “You’re playing two really good teams and you don’t want to come away being oh-for-two. The worst case scenario I would be happy with would be a split, definitely would love to win both if we could.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.