GARY — Jalen Washington will miss his sophomore season with a knee injury, West Side coach Chris Buggs confirmed.
The Cougars forward landed awkwardly at practice earlier this week. He was on the bench for West Side’s game with Bowman in the Lakeshore Classic Friday.
“He’s really in our spirits. We’re praying for him,” Buggs said. “His spirits are up. He’s doing OK, surprisingly. He’s very strong mentally. He’s already started rehab.”
Washington is ranked in the top 20 in the Class of 2022 nationally by all the major recruiting websites. He was expected to be among the state’s most productive players this season.
He wasn’t available for comment Friday.
“We feel good about our group, feel good about guys stepping up. But it’s going to take us some time to adjust,” Buggs said. “They understand that it’s time to step up. We use the mantra ‘strength in numbers,’ so we can be ready for a situation when we’re a man short.”
The West Side and Bowman basketball game was called with 5.4 second left on the clock after a fist fight between fans spilled onto the court and into the lobby outside the gym.
West Side led the game 48-46 but forfeited, as the home team.
After Billy Muldrew hit a free throw, the Eagles called a timeout. A small group of fans pushing and shoving each other came out of the stands from behind the West Side bench. At least one of the fans threw a punch before being pulled away.
Officials cleared the court. Bowman went into the locker room and West Side went to its bench, then to the locker room. Fans ran in and out of the gym briefly, as more action happened in the lobby. No players were involved.
After discussion, referees called the game, according the official scorer.
It’s the second major injury in as many years for Washington, who missed almost all of his freshman campaign with a broken shoulder suffered in the first game last season.
He scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds per game when he did play.
“These guys have been preparing themselves for a few years, so it’s time for guys like (juniors) Parion Roberson, Paris Roberson, Quimari Peterson, even guys like (6-9 sophomore) Mason Nicholson who’s only played JV,” Buggs said. “You can’t ever replace a good player like that, but it’s time for guys to get that next man up mentality.”
Buggs said he’ll have to make some adjustments to his team’s style of play. The Cougars lost 73-54 to Morgan Park, Illinois, without Washington Wednesday. Morgan Park is ranked No. 21 in the country by MaxPreps.
“The guys are hungry. We were right there, let in the first half. We just ran out of gas late,” Buggs said. “We know that we’re good enough to play with a team like that. We feel good about where we are, it’s just going to take some time to get it together.”