When Brandon Richardson stepped on to the court for Wednesday's practice, he knew full well that it would likely be one of the more painful experiences in his life.
What's even worse is that will probably be the case for Nebraska's sophomore guard the rest of the season.
After suffering from an alignment problem with his hips that caused significant pain up the left side of his back since before the season even started, Richardson got even worse on Saturday when he severely bruised the right side of his back after a collision during NU's win over Oregon State.
Stretching and constant treatment with the Huskers' training staff have helped make the pain tolerable, but with the fearless style of play the Los Angeles native has become known for, his rehab is set back to almost zero after every game or practice.
The only way Richardson will ever fully recover from his injuries is with rest, but at this point and until Nebraska has played its final game of the season, that simply isn't an option.
"It hurts a lot," Richardson said. "I really can't explain it. I just know that I'm just trying to play through pain, and that's what I've been doing. I'm just trying to do the best I can.
"I've always been the aggressive type. For me to step back, that's not really me. When we're on the floor, it's all about business, and I like to give everything I've got. I leave everything on the floor. I want to leave the game knowing that I gave my all. Getting rest would be an asset for me to get better, but at the same time, there's no time for me to rest."
Despite the pain, NU's training staff and Richardson's doctors have cleared him to keep playing so long as he can endure the pain. With pulling himself out of action not a legitimate possibility, Richardson continues to tough it out, though he has been forced to miss some time already this year.
"The trainer (R.J Pietig), he just said, 'Don't be Superman out there. If you feel like you can't go, just let me know,'" Richardson said. "But I feel like I can go. I might be in some pain, but at the same time, I want to be with my teammates. So I just go out there and push through it."
Head coach Doc Sadler said he hasn't pushed Richardson either way, but has told him that if he does decide to play and he's been cleared by the trainers, he expects all of his players to give their all each time they step on the court.
If Richardson were to ever tell him he couldn't play or practice because of the injury, Sadler said he wouldn't hesitate to let him rest. Until then, though, he said he has no plans of backing off Richardson's playing time or practice participation.
"Obviously I think that's a decision that he and the trainers make," Sadler said. "As all the players know, if they step on the floor, I expect them to go full speed. If they can't, then I understand that. But Brandon's tough, so it's not something I even think about. If he's at practice, I know he's out there. If he's not, I know that he's hurt. So I don't even think about it."
While it certainly will be an ongoing struggle for Richardson the rest of the season, he's expecting that both of his back ailments will fully recover with an offseason of enough rest and treatment.
However, it appears the chances of him doing long-term damage to his back by continuing to play haven't been ruled out, just ignored.
"I don't know. I hope not," Richardson said. "I'm just going to keep playing hard everyday, and whatever happens, happens."
Sadler: Gallegos needs to be "reckless"
Sadler has been raving about freshman guard Ray Gallegos's potential since before he even set foot on campus. Now nine games into the Jordan, Utah, native's collegiate career, Sadler is still waiting for that potential to materialize.
Though Gallegos has averaged 5.4 points and shot 46 percent from 3-point range in seven games played, Sadler said he's still waiting for 6-foot-3 Gallegos to build up enough confidence to take his game to the next level.
"Ray Gallegos is a kid that I've always really, really liked," Sadler said. "He can score. Obviously he's struggled a little but defensively. The thing about Ray is that he still has to get better at is just the intensity and the recklessness. He needs to become more reckless and not worry about making mistakes."
Sadler said Gallegos needed to be more aggressive in every aspect of the game, but especially on offense. The captain of Utah's Class 5A first-team all-state team, he averaged 16.7 points per game and ranked sixth in the state with 417 points in 25 games to help lead Jordan West High to the state championship last season.
His biggest impact came from beyond the arc, as his 66 3s on the year set a school record.
"His aggressiveness has to get better," Sadler said. "He's too passive on the defensive end and the offensive end, and that's just confidence. By nature, he is a passive person. He has improved in some areas, but I don't think any of us have seen how good he can be until he just lets it loose and doesn't be concerned about making physical mistakes. The mental mistakes are going to come with playing. The physical mistakes - he just really hasn't let loose, and that's what he has to understand."
Along with Richardson, redshirt freshman guard Eshuante Jones (foot) also returned to practice after missing time earlier this week
Junior forward Quincy Hankins-Cole, who missed last week's game with a knee injury, has practiced all week and is expected to play on Saturday against Jackson State
Other than that, Sadler said the Huskers were pretty healthy for this point in the season.
Around the rim
***Though freshman Christian Standhardinger hasn't been able to play since Nebraska's last exhibition game because of NCAA transfer rules, he has still been getting plenty of work in practice.
Sadler said he has been working Standhardinger quite a bit with the Huskers' starters, especially in offensive-oriented drills. Sadler said Standhardinger's return at the start of Big 12 Conference play on Jan. 9 should provide a much-needed spark to NU's offense.
"No question. No question," Sadler said. "He's the one guy that can make a little bit of a difference offensively."
***Another player Sadler said needs to step up on the offensive end when Nebraska roles into conference play in Jones, who he called arguably the Huskers' top shooting threat. Jones has averaged 6.6 points per game and is tied with Lance Jeter for the team lead with nine 3-pointers.
"We really, really need him to be a major player when it comes conference time, because he is probably our best perimeter shooter," Sadler said.
***One of the biggest reasons for Nebraska's lack of point production the past few games has been it's poor shooting from the free throw line. The Huskers have shot just 65.4 percent from the line this season, which ranks ninth in the Big 12.
"Obviously the last two years that's been something that has not been in our favor, so yeah, it's a concern," Sadler said. "But I don't know the answer to it. I wish I did, then I wouldn't be talking to you guys. I'd be retired. I don't know what the answer to that is. Obviously we've got to get it up to mid-70s to have a chance. You can't leave points on the board. We're just not a good enough offensive team to leave points on the free throw line."
***With all the scoring struggles considered, Sadler said he's been using this week of practice to focus on his team's offense. He took part of the blame because NU has spent much of the early part of the season emphasizing defense, which has left little time in practice for shooting and other offensive drills.
"I think we're making some improvement, obviously more so defensively than offensively," he said. "But that's probably my fault also because we've spent more time on the defensive end. These next few days this and next week, we're definitely going to be spending a lot more time (on offense), because once we get to Jan. 9, we've got to be much further along offensively than where we are right now."
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