Cal State Bakersfield head coach Rod Barnes didn’t know whether or not redshirt senior point guard Brent Wrapp — Barnes’ only returning starter — was going to be able to play at all during the 2017-18 season.
Wrapp’s injured left foot, which was stuck in a boot, just wasn’t getting any better and the start of practices was quickly approaching.
“We always think positive,” Barnes said. “I was concerned whether he was even gonna be able to play. I just could see it may be coming to the point that we had to go totally without him.”
Fortunately for Wrapp and the Roadrunners, he got out of the boot around early October. Though he started the first game of the regular season on Nov. 10, Wrapp had sat out the team’s first exhibition game and the vast majority of preseason practices. Now CSUB’s leader is finally back feeling “pretty good,” he said and at “90 percent,” Barnes said. It’s led to improved performances from the Roadrunners, which face Delaware on the road at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
There’s no play or even a game Wrapp can point to as the source of his injury. Over the course of last season, his body wore down. Wrapp sat out the final game of the regular season but continued to play through the team’s run to the National Invitation Tournament semifinals.
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There were a few misdiagnoses initially, Wrapp, said. He now knows he fractured his foot and there probably was a problem with one of the tendons.
Wrapp’s individual work in the summer was hindered. He tried to work through the injury, but around the end of July or early August, he got the boot on. Wrapp was stuck in it for about two months.
“You want to be out there with your guys and going hard every single day,” Wrapp said. “You know at the same time, you gotta be smart about it. When I was practicing, I didn’t feel like myself because it didn’t feel right, so that’s even more frustrating. I knew when I got the boot that I gotta do everything I can to get right and be good for the season.”
He spent the first practice of the season watching from a seat on the bench. Even when he did get the boot off, it wasn’t an easy transition.
Some days Wrapp would practice, other days he’d have to sit out. He had week-long stretches where he felt good (second week of October) and others where he was considerably sore (third week of October).
Barnes had thought Wrapp could be a double-digit scorer for the first time in his career this season, but the time off set the point guard back. Now, Barnes was considering a plan of just playing Wrapp in games and not having him practice to try to keep him as healthy as possible.
“He ain’t recovering fast enough for me, but it’s good,” Barnes said on Oct. 16. “He’s a fighter. He’s tough. … We’ll patiently wait till he's healthy.”
Wrapp met with the trainers and physical therapists at CSUB daily and an outside specialist periodically to work on his foot. He felt good one day after CSUB’s most intense practice of the fall on Nov. 6, Barnes said, which was also the first time Wrapp participated in an entire practice.
Once he felt good enough to be on the court, the issue became getting back into game shape. Wrapp had to get used to playing in the backcourt with two brand new players in Rickey Holden and Jarkel Joiner, too.
CSUB’s two-week road trip from Georgia to Arizona to Texas to Alaska in the beginning of the season exacerbated the problem by replacing time Wrapp could have spent working in the gym with traveling.
“You didn't practice in the spring or the summer,” Barnes told Wrapp on Dec. 7. “Magic or Jordan or any of those guys are gonna need some games to get their game legs under them, get the pace of what’s going on.”
His averages of 19 minutes and 3.5 assists in the first four games of the season have increased to 27.6 minutes and 5.2 assists over the last five. Wrapp’s taken back control of the point guard duties that Holden had at the start of the year, increasing the Roadrunners’ pace.
Wrapp’s more aggressive now, Barnes said, which is a benefit to the team.
Though his foot can still bother him during a game or on any given day, he tries not to think about it too much. He’s staying ahead of the curve on it with treatment from the training staff, including special creams.
“I think I’m pretty much back to normal,” Wrapp said.