During the preseason, N.C. Central men’s basketball coach LeVelle Moton referred to redshirt senior Will Ransom as a junkyard dog – the player who would do all the dirty work the team needed.
The last three games that dog has been on a leash, or in this case, a walking boot. Ransom, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, has been sidelined by a sprained ankle. He injured the ankle three minutes into the Eagles’ 69-52 win over Maryland Eastern Shore on Jan. 11.
N.C. Central (12-6, 3-1 MEAC) has managed to survive without him, going 2-0 in the games he missed, but Moton knows Ransom’s presence is needed if the Eagles want to continue their current winning streak in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
“He’s probably the best, when he wants to be, probably the best low-post defender in the conference,” Moton said. “He’s a great communicator back there. Obviously, he’s a big body, he gives up a physical presence, and he adds depth.”
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Despite missing two games Ransom is second in the league in blocked shots (1.4 per game) and the Eagles’ second-leading rebounder. At practice this week Moton observed Ransom running up and down the court with no pain, but said the true test of an ankle injury is running and cutting. If he can cut with ease, or little pain, Ransom should be ready to provide his defensive services when Howard University (4-14, 1-2) comes to Durham Monday (7:30 p.m., McDougald-McLendon Arena).
The extra body provides much needed depth, but what Moton has missed the most is Ransom’s voice on the back end, directing traffic in front of him. Earlier this season Moton joked that Ransom wants to become the first player-coach in NCAA history. The veteran coach will gladly welcome back that coach on the floor.
“He’s really our emotional leader,” Moton said. “He’s really that guy that’s always talking, always screaming, sometimes to a fault. Everyone else is kind of laid back and conservative, he’s kind of the rah-rah guy, and we need that. We need that spirit and that energy.”
Ransom went on the shelf right around the same time Moton welcomed Kyle Benton back to the lineup. Benton missed 10 games with an injury, returned to pair up with Ransom for two games, and has held down the post in the two games since Ransom went down. Benton responded by collecting three double-doubles in five games, and Moton called him their best offensive post presence. Even though Moton wants to have his twin towers back together, he knows he is at the mercy of the dreaded injury report.
“I’ve become numb to the heartbreaking news that this person is injured,” Moton said. “In coaching it’s just part of your job to manage chaos, so you except what comes through.”
Herald-Sun sports writer Jonas Pope is @JEPopeIV on Twitter.