BELLEVILLE — Southwestern Illinois College men's basketball coach Jay Harrington has often referred to each game in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference as an "absolute war."
But just two games into the season and two weeks away from its GRAC opener and the Blue Storm is ready showing the signs of wear.
With as many as eight players nursing injuries of one kind or another, the Blue Storm fell to 1-1 on Tuesday with an 80-55 loss at Mineral Area College.
"We're the walking wounded,'' Harrington said Thursday. "Never, and I mean never, have I had a team go through as many injuries as this one has at this point in the season. It's to the point to where I walk into practice every day and wonder who's next.
"As a coach you want to prepare your team the best you can. Right now, I'm glad we recruited 19 players, because if we didn't we'd be down to about seven healthy kids at practice."
SWIC sank five 3-point field goals in the first half, but managed to hit just 1-of-15 shots from 10-feet and under. The Blue Storm also committed 14 first-half turnovers.
But Mineral Area still led only 28-22 at halftime.
"It tells you that we played pretty good defense,'' Harrington said. "It's just tough when I look down the bench and see players like Brandon (Book), Corvone (Butler), Jacob (Tolbert) and Kyle (Lemons) in street clothes.
"The one thing I liked was that we played hard until the end. Even when we were down 25 points."
Tolbert, a transfer from Southeast Missouri State, could be ready to play when SWIC hosts Mineral Area in a rematch at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Lemons and Butler are perhaps seven-to-10 days away from returning while Book, one of three sophomores on the roster, will know his fate in few days.
The former two-time all-stater from the Central Cougars is out with a sports hernia. Harrington said Thursday that he will know in a couple of days if Book will have to undergo probable season-ending surgery.
The Blue Storm will look to get back on track this weekend when it hosts the SWIC Classic.
Action begins Friday, when St. Louis Community College takes on ABCD Academy at 6 p.m. followed at 8 p.m. when SWIC plays Missouri Valley College.
Missouri Valley will take on St. Louis Community College on Saturday at 3 p.m., followed by the SWIC-ABCD Academy game at 5 p.m.