By Jamie Crawley
When the Marlins hosted Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) rival Roanoke, the game proved to be a difficult one. The Marlins saw their first-half lead get cut down by a second-half run from the Maroons, which they could not recover from.
This proved to be the least of the Marlins worries unfortunately, as they not only lost the game, but senior leader and starting small forward Nick Doyle went down with a significant knee injury that could sideline him for the season. This was devastating news, but Doyle and the Marlins refuse to let this put a damper on the season as it starts to wind down to tournament time.
“We just have to come together as a team and when adversity hits, as it has done now, come together as a team and overcome it as a team,” junior guard Tim Jones said.
Doyle said he knew immediately the seriousness of his injury.
“Right when it happened, I knew it was something because of the way I went down. I knew it wasn’t a regular injury that I can just brush off and overcome,” Doyle said. “I also had a lot of thoughts racing through my mind such as whether I would play again, play professionally, or play the rest of that game,” Doyle said.
For Doyle, this injury hindered what was blossoming into a very productive senior campaign. In the seven games prior to the Roanoke contest, Doyle reached double figures in all of them. This was highlighted by back to back 19-point games against Emory and Shenandoah.
Doyle showcased his ability to make plays in crunch time in the Emory game when he made a three-point shot with 7 seconds left to give the Marlins the lead and eventual victory.
Overall, the injury was a tough pill to swallow for Doyle, but the support he has garnered has made the recovery process much easier.
“When I got the news, I got with Coach Macedo, Coach Bonner and Coach Renn and they saw the look on my face and the tears rolling down my eyes,” Doyle said. “And when they started crying, I knew they really cared about me… from then on, everything was about staying positive and keep working on your goal,” Doyle said.
Doyle and his teammates adopted this exact mentality to take on the rest of the season. “Being that Nick got hurt it’s important that everybody has to step up and take their game to the next level,” Jones said.
The next-man-up vibe seems to circle this team now. With Doyle injured, there are a few guys who will come in and play pivotal roles for the Marlins down the stretch. One of the players is Justin Watson. After transferring from Christopher Newport University, he has settled in and found his role for this team. Now, it seems his role will be even larger.
“Coach always gives us the idea that it’s next man up, so immediately when we found out he would be out for the season, I had already been prepared and ready to fill his spot,” Watson said. “I can step in and do what I’m supposed to do. As far as our playing styles, we’re pretty similar, so there’s not that much of difference. I just might have to step up my leadership,” Watson continued.
Doyle mentioned R.J Nicholson and Kahlil Barnette as guys that are able to step up and help the team in his absence.
Even though Doyle cannot suit up, he said he still wants to be an effective leader and integral part the team.
“I still stay in my teammate’s ears. I try to be the first one to practice every day and last to leave. Just seeing things I normally wouldn’t see if I was in the game, and then I can help them see it as well.” Doyle said.
He said he strives to make sure he can help his teammates anyway he can.
“Talking to my teammates around the clock is important for me. It can’t just be in practice either. If they hear it coming from someone other than the coach, it might help a little bit more to see it from a teammate’s perspective, a brother’s perspective,” Doyle said.
Have we seen Nick Doyle in a Marlins uniform for the last time? Not quite.
“Senior night, February 17, I’m going to start the game and play the first couple of possessions. I’m going to try to take the first shot if it’s there and try not to force it,” Doyle said.
“Senior night I’ll be on the court in uniform and try to help the team anyway I can,” he said with a chuckle.