Andre Nation’s warmups will remain “zipped” up after the sophomore guard was suspended Monday for a “violation of athletic department policy.”
The suspension covers the first 15 games — half of the season.
“Andre’s made a couple of bad decisions,” coach Matt Brady said Wednesday in his office. “The impact of this is significant. I think he needs to recognize and understand when you make bad decisions it affects your teammates, and it casts a negative light on an entire basketball program.”
Nation was going to be the team’s leading returning scorer at 9.3 points per game.
Brady acknowledged that he didn’t have a double digit-returning scorer, and Nation’s absence would hinder the team’s productivity.
As much or more can be said on the defensive side of the ball where Nation shined and will be dearly missed during his suspension.
It’s not often that a freshman logs five blocked shots in his first NCAA tournament game, but that’s exactly what Nation did against LIU-Brooklyn. He followed that up with a career high 24-point performance just two days later against top-ranked Indiana.
As a freshman he got charged with two technical fouls and wore his emotions on his sleeves. Many times, Brady or assistant coaches had to calm Nation down on the bench during a game. While this showed his inexperience, it’s what made him so lethal defensively, Brady said.
Brady denied the situation being inevitable but recognized his maturity is not where it should be.
“I don’t mind him being emotional on the court as long as it’s contained,” Brady said. “My larger concern is his desire to be a part of something larger than himself. You’re representing a whole group of people and not playing impacts this group.”
Nation created his own havoc on the defensive side of the ball. “Zip ‘Em Up,” as it was deemed late in the season, set a trend that spanned T-shirts to social media. He led the team in steals (52, 1.5/game) and blocked shots (47, 1.3/game) last season.
“We need to reconstruct our team,” Brady said. “He’s our leading returning scorer. [This] is not something we planned for the entire offseason we had.”
The JMU Student-Athlete Handbook states that a player with a second positive drug test will “be suspended for 50% of the competitions during the championship season of their respective sports.”
There is no confirmation that the suspension is based on this violation, but the punishment could fit the crime. Coach Brady doesn’t want people to make assumptions.
“I wouldn’t want anyone drawing any conclusions from that,” he said. “But what I will say is that he’s immature and he’s made some mistakes that aren’t helpful.”
The handbook also states that said athlete may not travel with the team and “may not participate in any game day activities” but “may still practice and attend strength/conditioning sessions with the team.”
Brady said that Nation may practice with the team during the suspension, but he currently isn’t partaking in practice.
In the meantime, Brady and the staff need to fill a hole in their roster.
“So we are actively looking at one walk-on,” Brady said. “I’m not ready at this time to say who it is, but we may keep one guy.”
He said a decision is likely to be made by the end of the week.
The walk-on would practice with the team for the entire season and presumably wouldn’t directly fill Nation’s void. Instead he would serve as roster depth. Redshirt junior Christian Pierce is the team’s only current walk-on.
Nation is eligible to return to the team on Jan. 7 when the team faces Colonial Athletic Association newcomer the College of Charleston for the first time on the road. With a road-heavy non-conference schedule, Nation will only miss three home games, including an exhibition.
Until his return, Brady is hopeful Nation can learn from his mistakes, but can’t deny the resounding impact this brings to his staff.
“He can’t run from the impact that this has had,” he said.
Contact Stephen Proffitt at firstname.lastname@example.org.