If Angel Rodriguez’s mind and heart were in charge, he would be in the starting lineup when the sixth-seeded University of Miami basketball team plays its Atlantic Coast Conference tournament opening game at 9 p.m. Wednesday against the winner of Tuesday’s Virginia Tech-Wake Forest game.
But Rodriguez’s right wrist is recovering from a sprain, and UM coach Jim Larrañaga said willpower alone cannot heal the injury. So, Rodriguez remains questionable for Wednesday. He tested his wrist at practice Monday, and coaches are watching him closely.
“Angel desperately wants to play and we would love for him to be able to play, but I told him if he’s going to play in the tournament, he needs to practice first,” Larrañaga said. “In his case, the mind is willing, but the body may not be. You can’t just will yourself to be healed from a sprain.”
Rodriguez said he “couldn’t do much” against North Carolina, Pitt or Virginia Tech because he passes and shoots with his right hand, but he was feeling “much better” on Monday.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
“It wasn’t easy to play through it, and if I’m not going to be able to help my team, I’m only going to hurt us,” Rodriguez said. “That’s why I wasn’t able to play. We are still taking it day by day, got to see how I feel and how it looks in practice. Coach is big on if you don’t practice, you’re not going to play, so I can say whatever I want, but it’s not going to mean anything unless I practice and coaches evaluate the situation.”
Larrañaga said if Rodriguez can’t play, he has full confidence in Manu Lecomte and JaQuan Newton, who have been filling in and doing well.
“Angel needs to play well if he’s going to be able to help us. Is he ready or is he not ready? We don’t know yet,” the coach said. “The other guys will play with confidence. They’re feeling good about themselves.”
The setback has been “pretty depressing and pretty sad,” Rodriguez said, but he has been trying to remain upbeat and cheering “like crazy” from the bench.
“It’s tough because I put in so many hours in the offseason, and last year that I was sitting [as a transfer], and I was expecting a big year from myself, and at the beginning I was having it,” he said. “Then I was up and down, inconsistent. And then I finally have a big game, and then I hurt myself. It’s pretty frustrating, especially at this time of the year, basically you win or go home. So, I need to get healthy, because if not, my season is done.”