BEMIDJI -- Sixty-one days of waiting are over for Jacob McNallan.
The Bemidji State men’s basketball junior, who spent the past two months sidelined due to a shoulder injury, had his season revived last weekend by making his long-awaited return to the court.
“It meant a lot,” McNallan said. “I sat out for two months, and I had to sit out and watch practice for a long time. It felt good just to get back on the court and practice, run up and down with the guys. Obviously I’m not doing a whole lot out there, but that’ll come. It feels good just to get out there.”
McNallan didn’t score during 16 combined minutes off the bench against University of Mary and Minot State, but his presence was a boost to the Beavers with the postseason now less than a week away.
“He’s good defensively. He’s always been able to guard the ball really well,” BSU head coach Mike Boschee said. “He’s a good rebounder, he attacks the paint really well. He gives us another dimension that we’ve been missing, so it’s good to have him back.”
McNallan brought back 9.8 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game, which he averaged over the first nine games of the season. His numbers took a small dip after a weekend with a limited role, but he said he can still provide intangibles that won’t show up in a box score.
“I’ve been here for a while, so I know the guys, I know the team pretty well,” McNallan said. “I’m still looked at as a leader. I just did that from the sidelines instead of the court. I translated that, and hopefully it translates right back onto the court again.”
And though it was no fun sitting out for the 13 games he missed, McNallan also said it gave him the chance to study the sport in a new way.
“It was actually nice to sit on the sideline and watch the games,” he said. “I haven’t done that for a little while, so taking a step back and looking at the game from (a different) view is nice. … I can use this to better myself when I’m playing on the court. You’re looking at it from a coach’s view instead of a player’s view, and that’s always good to get different perspective.”
McNallan’s return comes just in the knick of time for Bemidji State, too. This weekend’s road series against St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth serves as the last of the regular season, and the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Tournament follows on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
“These next three games we play are going to be against really quality opponents,” Boschee said. “Definitely playoff-quality opponents, teams that can make a run into the final four of the conference tournament. We’re trying to continue to grow and play as good of basketball as we possibly can and see what can happen.”
The weekend starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, against the Huskies (19-7, 14-6 NSIC) in St. Cloud and finishes with a 5:30 p.m. tip against the Bulldogs (15-9, 12-8 NSIC) on Saturday, Feb. 23, in Duluth.
The Beavers (9-15, 6-14 NSIC) are locked into the No. 8 seed in the North Division, but four teams are still in the running to play them as the No. 1 seed in the South. Though BSU won’t worry about the postseason possibilities with so much dust still to settle, this weekend can help its underdog cause come next week.
“The guys definitely are a lot more energized towards the end. They know it’s going to come (down) to the big-time plays, big-time games coming up,” McNallan said. “St. Cloud and Duluth are very good teams right now. (If) we steal one or two this weekend, that’d be great going into playoffs. Try to catch a little run… to start us off strong.”