That in no way implies that Stapleton will be slacking. He’ll simply be doing what he can – which pretty much entails doing a little as possible – to ensure that his surgically-repaired knee will be able to recover enough from Thursday night games to be ready to play on Saturday.
“I’ll probably be off my feet, ice my knee a lot,” Stapleton said, describing his plans for the day off between Thursday’s victory over Old Dominion and Saturday’s 4 p.m. tip-off against Charlotte.
The condition of Stapleton’s knee is constantly on coach Dusty May’s mind.
“Tomorrow morning, that will be my first text,” May said following Thursday’s victory. “How’s it feeling? How’s the swelling? We’ll just go from there. It’s one day at a time.”
A graduate transfer from Mississippi St. prior to the season, Stapleton came to FAU damaged but eager. Familiar with Stapleton’s talent and work ethic from their time together at Louisiana Tech, Stapleton’s original school, May was more than willing to take a risk on his former player despite a history of knee surgeries.
Stapleton’s rewarded May’s confidence by scoring 12.0 points and grabbing 5.1 rebounds per game, though a knee flare-up caused him to miss seven games.
If May didn’t know any better Stapleton’s 23-point performance in 22 minutes off the bench against MTSU in his second game back could indicate that the knee had completely healed. That’s not the case.
May doesn’t really expect Stapleton to practice much for the remainder of the season, hoping to save the knee for as much game-action as it can withstand.
Stapleton remained on the court for the final minutes of the victory over ODU, delivering two of the game’s most important plays in the final minute.
With FAU leading 76-70 and ODU mounting a comeback, Stapleton rotated off his man to block Ahmad Carver’s driving lay-up attempt, getting the ball back for FAU.
On ODU’s next trip possession, Stapleton exploded off the floor to viciously snatch a rebound. After being fouled Stapleton drained his two free throws, part of a 9-for-10 night at the line.
“Xa was incredible, both sides of the ball,” May said. “Made hustle plays. Made toughness plays.”
There’s little doubt that Stapleton has the talent to carry the Owls during games. Those types of outbursts are more likely to come on Thursdays, when Stapleton’s been able to rest his knee for four full days between games.
How Stapleton’s knee, and center Karlis Silins’ fractured fibia, will respond on only one day of rest is one of the biggest question marks facing the Owls each week.
“Him and Karlis with that injury, the second game – I wouldn’t be shocked if they can’t play,” May said. “It’s on them. How well do they feel? And if they can’t go, then someone’s got to step up. If they can go we’ll obviously welcome them with open arms. We improve our chances greatly.”