In many ways, Jeremy Truchan's junior year was like a redshirt season.
Monday through Thursday, he practiced with the rest of his Wheeler teammates.
The difference came on game nights, when Truchan was relegated to the bench, out of uniform, unable to play due to a suspension for an athletics code of conduct violation.
"It wasn't very fun," Truchan said. "I wanted to play. It made me hungry."
After missing all of football season, Truchan had to sit out most of the hoops campaign. He started counting down the days from 100 to when he could return to action on Feb. 21 against Lowell. Raring to make an immediate impact, he scored as many points that night as he did in the 18 prior games he had to watch.
"It was kind of devastating," Truchan said. "I had the date memorized in my head and I wasn't able to contribute."
At times, coach Tom Johnson, in his first year at Wheeler, wasn't sure how or if Truchan was going to come out on the other side.
"It was incredibly hard," Johnson said. "It would've been very easy to take the easy way out. A lot of nights, he was really down. We lost by three, four points and he knew in his mind if he had played, we might have won. We preach sometimes that you really find out more about a person's character in how they respond to a mistake. It certainly made him a stronger person. I thought he handled it about as well as a 16-, 17-year old could."
Truchan was particularly anxious for summer basketball to establish himself with a largely inexperienced Wheeler team. The 20-game schedule helped bridge the gap in his development. A natural two guard, he also saw time at the point with teammate Drew Heinold sidelined by injury.
"It was a buffer for the season, working out the kinks, getting back in basketball shape," Truchan said. "We had a lot to figure out, what our roles were. Most people who watch from the sideline, they see things they can fix, but they can't go in and do anything about it. I felt like I could see what was going on and I could put myself in that role."
Moved from receiver to quarterback during the football season, Truchan triggered a turnaround for Wheeler, and he carried that confidence onto the hardwood.
"It helped immensely," Johnson said. "As a quarterback, he had to make decisions to put his team in position to win. In basketball, he has the decision-making of when to shoot and when to get others the ball.
"He has a a three-pronged attack — he can get to the rim, he has an intermediate jumper and he can also shoot the 3 — but the best thing about him is he's not only capable of creating shots for himself, he's an outstanding passer."
Wheeler is 7-4 and Truchan is at or near the top of every statistical category, averaging 16.8 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals per game. Though 6-foot-1, he also has to defend an opponent's best post player at times.
"I'm happy, but not satisfied," Truchan said. "We've lost games we could've won that hopefully we'll win in the second half of the season. I'm not dwelling on the past. It's over. I'm just playing basketball to its fullest. It's a priority this time."