First, Pickerington Central lost its popular coach, Jerry Francis, indefinitely with a mini-stroke caused in part by stress due to bulging discs in his back.
Now, the Tigers have lost their star player, Ohio State-bound Jae'Sean Tate, for an undetermined length of time. Tate has an MRI on his right shoulder scheduled for Thursday and the initial prognosis isn't rosy.
"It doesn't look real good right now," interim coach Eric Krueger said. "I don't want to sound too negative but I'd not holding out a lot of hope that we're going to get news that he's suddenly going to return."
Krueger said Tate, a 6-foot-5 swingman, has been bothered by a sore shoulder much of the season and has been undergoing rehabilitation. The shoulder was especially sore after a victory over Northland Jan. 25 and he has sat out the past two games. He added that the shoulder, his non-shooting arm, has been popping out in his sleep recently.
"It could be a torn labrum, but we won't really know until Thursday," Krueger said. "If that indeed is the diagnosis, I can't imagine that he would be play again this season. He has too bright a future to keep trying to fight through that the rest of the season. If that happens, it's going to be a hell of a jolt to our basketball team. He's obviously the best player in Ohio."
A finalist for Ohio's Mr. Basketball Award a year ago, Tate had led Pickerington Central to a 14-3 record. The Tigers are expected to be among the top seeds in the upcoming Division I tournament. They will play at another top contender, Newark, on Tuesday.
As for Francis, Krueger said he recently had staples removed following surgery to repair two bulging discs in his back and is walking with a cane. He is uncertain of a timetable for Francis' return.