Niagara Gazette — Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, the team on the floor will match Joe Mihalich's vision of what the Niagara Purple Eagles can be in 2013.
Senior center Devon White, the "missing piece," as Mihalich calls him, will play his second game as a Purple Eagle tonight when Niagara hosts Hartford, and junior guard Marvin Jordan, the team's top 3-point shooter, may return after missing the last two games with a groin injury.
"It's nice to have your whole team," Mihalich said following Tuesday's practice. "But Devon is far from being what he is going to be and Marvin is not what he can be right now.
"Maybe it's unrealistic for everyone to be healthy. It would be great to have them all together."
Niagara is off to a 3-6 start against what Mihalich believes is the most challenging first nine games any of his 14 teams have ever faced. Six of those games have been on the road and in eight of those games, Niagara played without White, who was brought in to to shore up the Purple Eagles three big weaknesses — interior defense, rebounding and inexperience.
"It's been a tough stretch, but that's what makes you better," said Mihalich, who is one win away from 250 for his career.
A graduate student who spent the last four years at LaSalle, the burly, 6-foot-8 White is Niagara's oldest player, but also the one least familiar with the offense and not yet in game shape. He missed the start of the season while recovering from Achilles tendon surgery and has only been practicing for a couple weeks.
"I'm working every day and once I get in shape, we will be a way better team than we are now," White said. "I look forward to bringing leadership, defense and rebounding. I'm not really looking much to score. We've got Juan'ya Green and Antoine Mason. I will drop in a few buckets when I can but my main focus is defense. This is a good group of guys and I can help them get back on track and make sure they are working the same way I'm working."