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Arizona basketball: Good Reason Not To Panic?

Hold on, wait a second.

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

My attention this week focuses on starting forward and Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson, or more specifically, Ryan Anderson’s right ankle. While contesting a shot during Arizona’s victory over Boise State in the third place game of the Wooden Legacy, Anderson landed awkwardly on his ankle and then hobbled off the court. But a few minutes later, Anderson appeared back on the court, and I released not a sigh of relief, but of weariness.

Sitting on my couch, I turned to my cat and murmured, "He’s going to roll it again, just wait."  Prince eyed the television, momentarily distracted from the mouse toy he captured minutes earlier, and we both watched as Anderson subsequently twisted his ankle yet again, this time while defending penetration into the lane. Prince looked at me and I shook my head, then he dragged his mouse into the bedroom, huffing as if he were disgusted.

I shared Prince’s sentiment. Why would you insert Anderson so quickly back into a game that your team had comfortably begun to put away and risk your best player’s future health? As a former basketball player, and fellow-ankle-roller, I know how painful this injury can be. I also know how weak the structural foundation of the ankle is after such an incident. True, walking on it immediately afterwards can often help loosen the ligaments and assuage the pain, but even if the discomfort subsides, the ankle, because of its weakened foundation, is now more prone to repeated injury. Yet as frustrating as it was watching Anderson jog back onto the court after each injury, I ultimately realized that this was possibly the exact sign Arizona fans needed--this was, perhaps, the Arizona Wildcats’ saving grace after everyone was tempted to push the panic button after their unexpected loss to Providence.

This was, in essence, an indicator of good things to come, that even if Arizona gets knocked down, they will jump right back up and carry on. Tenacity is what I am talking about here, a relentlessly competitive mindset that doesn’t understand the concept of giving up, and Ryan Anderson unleashed it against Boise State, running back onto the court for the second time moments after writhing on the court in obvious pain. And even though Anderson eventually fouled out, he finished with 11 points, seven boards, and one steal and block each.

Head coach Sean Miller has said Arizona must play through their starting forward if they are going to succeed this season, and if they do--if Anderson’s toughness infects his teammates? It could be scary. It could make the woeful cries of disappointment over Ray Smith’s season-ending ACL tear and now Kaleb Tarczewski’s absence for 4-6 weeks mere afterthoughts. Okay, maybe that’s stretching it. But don’t underestimate what a little extra spunk and moxy can do in place of a missing starter. And they may very well need a big dose of this mixture when Arizona faces their toughest test yet on Saturday at Gonzaga.

Arizona heads to Spokane with a 6-1 record while Ryan Anderson’s right ankle moves to 2-0.