There's that old sports adage about not losing a starting role due to injury. Not sure whether Mike Lonergan believes in such things, but the George Washington coach was prepared and frankly desired to put Patricio Garino on the court for the opening tips now that the 6-foot-6 sophomore was back from a finger injury. Last season the swingman started every game. Then and now, Garino is the Colonials top all-around player thanks to his hoops IQ and high-end defense.
That left a dilemma: who sits. The current lineup racked up win after win this season including triumphs over Creighton and Maryland. Maurice Creek and Kethan Savage play the same position as Garino. They also lead the Colonials in scoring heading into Tuesday's Atlantic 10 showdown versus VCU at the Smith Center (7 p.m., CBSSN).
Lonergan turned to his perimeter players for a solution. Garino came up with the answer. Don't change a thing.
"He's really a starter, one of our best players if not the best player, but he asked me to bring him off the bench," Lonergan said of Garino before Monday's practice. "I had to make a tough decision. I wanted to start Patricio and I thought about bringing [Creek] or Kethan [Savage] off the bench to give us more scoring, but Patricio is such a team player. He didn't want to disrupt our chemistry. He took it for the team and made my job easier. He'll be the first one in and play starter minutes."
Garino, who has missed seven games this season, has certainly not slowed the Colonials down since his return. Over the last four games, the Argentine has averaged 12.2 points on 66.7 percent shooting from the field with 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 25 minutes. Defensively he remains the Colonials top perimeter option and he'll be part of the ball handling core tasked with surviving VCU's 'Havoc' defense.
"Usually when a guy's been hurt and not practicing all the time...he's in tip-top shape. I couldn't be happier with him," Lonergan said. "These four games he's back and he's been terrific."