The season seemed bright for Sanjay Lumpkin. He was in line to play a key role off Northwestern's bench in his first season. Then, just days before the season-opener, Lumpkin was stricken with mononucleosis.
Lumpkin missed Northwestern's first four games, sidelined through each game and practice. His only action game in garbage time during a blowout of TCU. The role Lumpkin earned was gone and he was back to square one.
"He was probably going to be one of the first guys off the bench," Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said of Lumpkin. "Now he's not. He gets it, he's not quite ready."
Lumpkin rejoined his teammates at practice last week, but was not in playing shape after time away from the court. In addition to retaining his role, he must return to in-season form.
"It's more of a setback," Lumpkin said of his missed time. "Everything's going to work out in the end. It's too bad that it happened at that time, but I'll get back in the flow of things. I'll be alright."
However, Carmody's greatest concern isn't with Lumpkin's body. He hopes the freshman can get his mind ready to play.
"From the neck up, he's got to get focused again, get ready to go, and consistently play hard to get competitive," said Carmody. "When you miss 10 days, for a freshman, that's a lot."
For Lumpkin, Northwestern's complex Princeton offense has become familiar, though it took some time. With knowledge of the schemes, the swingman can make an impact.
"I really like the system," said Lumpkin. "It took me a while to catch on. Once I finally caught on to the offense, it really started to click and flow."
Lumpkin hopes he can be a "glue guy" for Northwestern, as he was poised to be before mono struck. He's eager to contribute.
"I was just disappointed that it happened to me," he said. "I'm getting better, working every day to get back in shape, we're winning, and everything is going well."