Canisius coach Tom Parrotta revealed after the Binghamton game Wednesday night that the sore back junior guard Gaby Belardo has been dealing with for the better part of the season is being caused by a herniated disc.
The coaching staff has been trying to limit Belardo to around 20 minutes a game, depending on his pain level and his effectiveness. Belardo made it through 26 minutes last week against Loyola of Chicago and tied for the team lead with 10 points, but was limited to 18 minutes Wednesday night and just five in the second half.
“He didn’t look right,” Parrotta said. You guys saw it out there. He was laboring. … Where you really notice it on defensive end because he can’t get in the stance.”
Belardo didn’t practice all week and hardly participated in the walk through before the Binghamton game, Parrotta said. When Belardo’s not in the game, he can be found behind the bench riding the exercise bike to stay loose. While everyone else relaxes during halftime, he goes to the training room and rides some more.
“I hope to hell it’s not this way all year,” Parrotta said. “I’m getting to the point where we probably have to get our doctors together and trainers and say when are we gonna settle this once and for all. He’s done everything. He gets two to three treatments a day. He had injections. He had chiropractors. He’s had acupuncture. And it’s just not helping.”
Parrotta had back trouble during his playing days at Fordham and feels like he can sense how Belardo is feeling. “Every step hurts,” the coach recalls, adding that back trouble was the only thing that kept him out of games in college. Now he must decide if it will keep one of his players out.
“I talked to my staff about what the right thing is to do here. Do we just shelf him? We have to look at whats fair to him and what’s fair to the team. Is he helping us when he’s in there at the 20-minute mark?”
Belardo cannot sit out the rest of the year and redshirt because already used his redshirt year during the 2009-10 season after he transferred to Canisius from South Florida. The NCAA has medical hardship waivers that athletes may apply for to get an extra year of eligibility, but those are not given out very regularly.
“They made it sound to me like it was going to be a huge shot in the dark to accomplish that,” Parrotta said in reference to the waiver. “I would have exhausted all opportunities had that been the case, because believe me, I really asked for that.”
Canisius’ next game is in Bridgeport, Conn. against Fairfield on New Year’s Day. Sitting on a bus for an extended period of time won’t do Belardo’s back any good, but perhaps that’s one of the reasons the Griffs used Thursday as a travel day — to give the players more time to get ready to go Sunday afternoon.
The Griffs are already in a hole at 0-2 in MAAC play and will need Belardo as healthy as possible for their game against the Stags, one of the conference favorites who downed Canisius 68-59 in Buffalo Dec. 4.
“[Belardo] was a preseason all-conference selection and I fully expected him to be a postseason all-conference selection,” Parrotta said. “But not at 50 to 60 percent.”