Northwestern guard Dave Sobolewski has not yet been cleared to play in Tuesday’s game against Purdue, coach Chris Collins said Monday, but the junior guard did practice in a limited capacity for the first time in over a week.
Sobolewski has been sidelined since suffering a concussion in practice in the lead up to last Sunday’s Illinois game. Monday marked his most thorough day of practice since the injury occurred.
However, when asked about his point guard’s status, Collins was reticent given the nature of concussions. “He really hadn’t done anything in a couple weeks, so it’s still going to be a little bit of a process,” Collins said.
Concussion protocol generally dictates that a player must progressively build up his physical activity until he reaches the point where pre-concussion levels of exertion – in this case, a full game of basketball – don’t provoke symptoms. So even when Sobolewski is fully cleared, he likely won’t be in good enough shape to play 30, or maybe even 20 minutes in a game.
Whether those 20 or 30 minutes are even demanded of him is another question. Collins said after Saturday’s win that Sobolewski wouldn’t inherit his place in the starting lineup immediately upon his return. On Monday, he once again stressed that Sobolewski would be eased into his new role – whatever it may be – when he is eventually cleared.
“He’s going to have to adjust to what we’re doing,” Collins said Monday. “We’re in a good place right now, we’ve got a good thing going, and guys are embracing the way we’re playing.” Collins went on to talk about Sobolewski as “another guy who can play, who can give us some minutes.”
All signs point to a diminished role for Sobolewski when he is finally pronounced 100 percent healthy. As Collins is always quick to mention, this team needs Sobolewski. And he’s right; only six Northwestern players accumulated five or more minutes on Saturday. Winning, especially in the Big Ten, isn’t sustainable with a six-man rotation. Players will wear out quickly.
But inferring from Collins’ words and his tone, Sobolewski will have to make alterations in his game if he is going to be a key contributor going forward. Collins spoke of his team finding its identity over the past week, and it did so without Sobolewski. So once he is cleared, the onus is on the junior captain to carve out a place for himself on a team that has developed considerably during his absence.