Foot injury hobbles Wildcats' Coble

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Uncertainty loomed over Northwestern's basketball team after practice Thursday as star player Kevin Coble was set to get a more definitive diagnosis on his injured left foot later in the afternoon in Chicago.

Coble injured his foot when landed on it awkwardly during Tuesday's practice. He has since seen doctors and was originally expected to see a specialized physician on Friday, but had the appointment moved to Thursday afternoon. Coble watched Thursday morning's practice from the sidelines while wearing a black walking boot.

Northwestern coach Bill Carmody couldn't give any exact answers on Coble's injury or the length of his absence, but he assumed Coble would be out of the lineup for possibly the first month.

"He's not going to be with us a while, I guess," Carmody said. "I don't know. I really don't. He's seeing a guy down in Chicago at 3 or 4. My guess right now is Christmas. So, that's Big Ten season, basically."

Coble, a 6-foot-8 senior, led the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding last season as he averaged 15.5 points and 4.8 rebounds. After Northwestern finished 17-14 and reached the NIT last season, Coble was expected to be the key this season to the Wildcats reaching their first NCAA Tournament.

Carmody admitted the injury was significant, but he also stayed positive.

"It's a hit," Carmody said. "You know the expression they've used this last 10 years -- it is what it is. I think it's an initial hit. If it was three weeks ago, it would have worn off, somehow.
"The thing I told our team today is we have to play with passion. We have a lot of quiet guys out there. They know what we're doing, we're experienced enough. You can't forget you have to play hard and with passion. I think we have to wait and see about the impact. ... I think we do have some depth. Our ninth guy can play."

Northwestern junior point guard Michael Thompson agreed the timeliness of the injury has made it more difficult as the Wildcats open their season Friday at home against Northern Illinois.

"It definitely feels like, 'Why now?'" Thompson said. "Everybody on the team is talking about it now. We just have to come together. That's part of the game. People get hurt. Some people have to step up and fill his void. We're there for him, we're supportive. We're just hoping he can come back sooner than expected."

Whether it's established veterans like Thompson, improving sophomores like John Shurna and Luka Mirkovic or someone new like highly-touted freshman Drew Crawford, Carmody knows he needs someone to replace the confidence and clutch ability that Coble provided Northwestern.

"It's always good to have a guy on the court that you know you can throw the ball to," Carmody said. "It's like if you throw the ball to LeBron [James] or Kobe [Bryant] -- I'm not making these comparisons -- but the guy on the team who lifts you up and you always feel, 'We can play because he's on our team.'

"I do think we do have some guys who are ready to do some stuff. … Now you don't even know. Guys concentrated on [Coble], and other guys had easier shots. Now, it changes everything. We'll wait and see. Maybe we'll figure it out on the fly. Maybe every game will be different."

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.