It will have to wait a few more days due to the incoming weather, but the anticipated debuts of Ben Swolsky and Isaiah Garrison are coming for the St. Patrick basketball team.
Swolsky has been sidelined this season due to a knee injury suffered during summer basketball. A little over six months removed from the injury, Swolsky was cleared by doctors on Friday, January 5 to resume playing, under some restrictions.
"We want to make sure we do this the right way. My biggest concern for Ben is getting him healthy, better and preparing for his future," Saints coach Aaron Rigdon said. "He wants to go full speed all the time because that's just how he is, so we're going to error on the side of caution, take our time with him. The doctor wants him on a maximum number of minutes, four to five minutes at a time, depending on how he responds. We'll take our time as much as possible with Ben."
The senior forward was in uniform last Saturday against Augusta in their 10th Region All "A" Classic quarterfinal matchup with Augusta, but coach Aaron Rigdon wanted to get a week of practice under his belt before returning to game action. He also sat out the Saints Tuesday win over Silver Grove.
Swolsky was set to make his debut on Saturday at home against Berea, but that game was called off due to the inclement weather. The Saints next game comes on Tuesday at home against Calvary Christian.
Swolsky currently holds offers from four schools: Ohio Wesleyan, Mount St. Joseph, Transylvania and Ohio Northern, with interest from a few other schools. He's scored over 1,000 points and pulled down over 500 rebounds in his Saints career that started as an eighth grader. In his junior season in which he played 18 games due to a wrist injury, Swolsky averaged 20.8 points and 9.2 rebounds.
"He brings us rebounding, size and a post presence. He can post up or beat you off the dribble. He really adds a lot for us," Rigdon said. "He's also a leader, he's been a big leader even not playing, he talks to the guys during practice and helps guide them. Before the season started, I told him to watch the game from a coaches perspective, learn things from watching on the sideline and feel he's benefited from that."
Garrison comes over from Mason County where he spent his freshman through junior year at and part of his senior year before transferring over to St. Patrick. The senior guard scored 751 points as a Royal, playing sparingly as a freshman, Garrison averaged 13.1 points a game as a sophomore and played a vital role in helping the Royals win the 10th Region and earn a berth to the state tournament. Garrison played 16 games as a junior with the Royals before deciding to leave the team last January. He averaged 16.6 points per game during his junior season.
"Isaiah brings a lot of speed and can get to the basket at will," Rigdon said. "There's not too many people out there that can stop him. Isaiah leads by example, tells people where they need to be and really has a smart basketball IQ. He's also one of the top defenders in the region in my opinion."
The transition has gone smoothly so far for Garrison, with positive remarks coming from the St. Patrick administration and his coach.
"I think he has adjusted very well here," Saints Athletic Director Angie Brant said. "Teachers have all said good things about him in class."
Rigdon has also seen the changes Garrison has made.
"He knows he needed to make some positive changes. He's done everything we've asked of him and he's working hard. We had some concerns when he first came over, but he's blended in nicely with the kids and is taking care of his business in the classroom," Rigdon said. "Not only him, but I want all of our young men to be successful."
What a difference a week makes. Last week in the All "A" loss to Augusta, Rigdon was down to his final spot on his bench at the end of the game with players either hurt or sick. Now he gets about 35 points and 15 rebounds a night on average with the additions of Swolsky and Garrison.
"It's went from famine to feast for us. We were down to our last player last week with everyone hurt or sick," Rigdon said. "Spots won't be given though, Ben and Isaiah will have to work their way into the lineup. Whoever works hard and gets the job done will get the minutes. We can get a rotation now and go about 10 deep if we have to."
St. Patrick will also benefit from the return of Paul Muehlbauer, out since December 5 with a foot injury. Muehlbauer can add to the rotation with his 3-point shooting.
The Saints will now have about 10 games and six weeks to get them accustomed to the rotation and define their roles before the district tournament rolls around the week of February 19. They'll find out their 39th District Tournament opponent February 1 at the draw.
On top of that, Rigdon knows there's been a lot of buzz around town with his team's new additions. He's definitely let them know none of it matters unless they can start to show the results.
"These guys want to win and do what it takes to win. Everyone has a role on this team from the first guy to the last. We still need to find and determine those roles, some may be switched," Rigdon said.
The first year coach told his team that they need to take the "me against the world" attitude.
"There will still be naysayers out there that say otherwise, but we just need to prove them wrong with results. We understand there's a lot of hype around us right now so we just need to be humble and do the right thing. We're on a mission right now and that's to win a district championship and we need everybody's nose to the grind," Rigdon said.