Transulijury (TRANS-suh-LI-jer-ee), Noun: A condition that drives Division I basketball coaches crazy. Usually brought on in the preseason when any of four factors are present; a transfer, a suspension, an ineligible player or an injury.
Winthrop men's basketball coach Randy Peele has a bad case of transulijury. With one transfer, two suspensions, one ineligibility and an injury. Peele has been hurting.
Minus the condition, Peele would begin the season on Nov. 13 with three returning starters: Reggie Middleton at point guard, Matt Morgan at forward and Robbie Dreher at shooting guard.
The coach could well have had George Valentine, Charles Corbin, Chris Malcolm and big-time recruit Martaveous Smith to add the mix inside. Andre Jones, Gideon Gamble, Justin Burton and freshman Joab Jerome would fill in at guard or small forward.
But he start of the 2010-11 season has been altered.
The first transulijury symptom came in the spring when Malcolm, a reserve forward, announced his intention to transfer to a smaller school where he could play more. That move was unexpected and Peele doesn't understand why Malcolm would go from an NCAA tournament team to Division II Rollins (Fla.) College.
Peele believed he'd have four experienced post players, giving Peele the opportunity to ease 6-foot-11 redshirt freshman Julius Francis into the rotation. The plan was for Francis to be a big part of the program as a sophomore. Malcolm's departure left Peele with three experienced players, meaning Francis will see more floor time right away.
The condition worsened near the end of the spring semester when an off-the-court incident led to the suspension of Dreher and Corbin. Dreher will miss the team's first four games, Corbin the first nine.
Peele's early-season post-depth took another hit.
Midsummer came and Peele was looking for a way to keep the symptoms from getting worse. He signed 6-9 forward Derrick Scott out of Dorman. Scott isn't an imposing inside player, but he could be serviceable until Corbin returns.
In time Scott can become a player that stretches defenses. He has great shooting range and will likely get a few minutes in each of the first nine contests to give Morgan or Valentine a breather.
Late-summer brought the start of classes and the Eagles staff learned that Smith was academically ineligible. The 6-9 center had the grades in high school, but the NCAA took issue with the courses Smith was advised to take.
Smith will play two seasons at Tallahassee Community College. He must graduate before he can enroll at Winthrop.
Practice began on Oct. 15, with Peele's case of transulijury on its last leg, or so he thought. On Oct. 17 Jerome, who was expected to be an immediate contributor fell hard in practice. He suffered a concussion, got some stitches and dislocated a finger.
The stitches are gone, the finger has healed and the symptoms from the concussion are fading. The team is looking forward to Jerome's return to practice this week. He missed valuable practice time when offensive and defensive sets were being installed. He'll play catch-up to be ready for the Eagles' season-opener Nov. 13 at home against Queens.
Through it all, Peele is as determined as ever. Peele is undeterred, although he has already drawn up and crumpled more plans than all of last year when Winthrop won the Big South tournament. The team finished the 2009-2010 season with a 19-14 record and an appearance in the NCAA play-in game in Dayton, Ohio.
Peele has at least three sets of plans for his team leading up to Christmas.
There is a rotation idea for the first four games (vs. Queens and three NIT Preseason Tip-off contests) while the team is without Dreher and Corbin. Peele has another scheme for games five through nine against Lander, VMI, Liberty, Charlotte and Jacksonville before Corbin returns. And a third for the rest of the year when Peele expects to have all of his players available.
"Playing without Corbin has consumed my thoughts," Peele said. "We have to navigate through these situations; the injuries and the suspensions."
Corbin's loss is a big factor. It leaves Winthrop thin inside. Morgan and Valentine will play a lot of minutes in the first nine games. They cannot get into foul trouble or the team will be left with inexperienced defenders in the paint.
The coach has at least three immediate concerns. Getting the freshmen (Jerome, Francis and Scott) to understand his system, defending the post and rebounding.
"I think we've worked harder on defense than we ever have, and we're still not good at it," Peele said. "I don't want to be negative. There isn't a coach in the country that will tell you after two weeks that the defense is good."
That said after Peele made learning the zone defense a big part of practices earlier that usual.
Defense has been the cornerstone to Winthrop's success for more than a decade. Last season the Eagles were ranked highly in several defensive categories nationally: 12th in 3-point field goal defense (29.6 percent); 22nd in steals per game (8.4); 26th in turnover margin; 26th in field goal defense (39.7 percent); and 31st in scoring defense.
But Winthrop struggled on offense. In the 10-team Big South Conference, the Eagles were last in field goal percentage (38 percent); 3-point field goal percentage (24.8), and assists (10.48). Winthrop was ninth in scoring offense (61.9).
Graduate Mantoris Robinson was a two-time conference Defensive Player of the Year.
Departed center Andy Buechert was a solid post defender.
Whether it was the lack of consistency on offense or the lost players on defense, Coastal Carolina was picked first over Winthrop in the Big South Preseason Poll by the league's coaches and a media panel.
Coastal went 28-7 last season. The Chants remarkable season led them to the conference's regular season title and a place in the tournament championship game, at home, against Winthrop.
Winthrop beat Coastal Carolina, 64-53, and advanced to the NCAA tournament and lost 6-44 to Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Coastal lost in the first round of the NIT at Alabama-Birmingham, 65-49.
The Chanticleers lost three starters, Joe Harris, Logan Johnson and Mario Edwards from last year's squad. Preseason All-Conference player Chad Gray returns for his senior season. He will be joined by Mike Holmes, a 6-8 half-season senior rental, in mid-December. Both forwards started their careers at South Carolina.
UNC Asheville was picked third. The Bulldogs return four starters and 11 players off a team that finished fourth in the regular season and won 12 of its final 16 games.
Presbyterian chosen fourth, returns its three top players -- Al'Lonzo Coleman, Pierre Miller and Josh Johnson -- who redshirted last season.
The trio of redshirt junior players will play with chips on their shoulders after sitting out a season with the understanding they would be competing for a chance to play in the NCAA tournament as seniors.
The NCAA extended the school's Division I transition period another year meaning the three players won't have that chance.
Coastal received 10 first place votes. Winthrop got 5, UNC Asheville and Presbyterian four each. Liberty picked up one first place vote.
High Point junior guard Nick Barbour is the Preseason Player of Year. He is coming off a sophomore effort that produced 18.9 ppg.
Barbour and Gray are joined on the Preseason All-Conference team by PC's Coleman, Jamarco Warren of Charleston Southern and VMI's Austin Kenon.
A tumultuous lead up to the 2010-11 season could settle into an intriguing run to March for the Eagles. It's Peele's first bout of transulijury, but he seems to be handling it his way; grinding it out.