By Joe Scalzo
Youngstown State freshman guard Marcus Keene was indefinitely suspended after punching sophomore teammate Ryan Weber in a practice on Feb. 7, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Keene and Weber had been talking back and forth during the practice and “things started to get a little heated,” a source said. Keene then punched Weber in the nose.
Keene left practice and was later suspended indefinitely. Weber’s nose was broken, forcing him to miss a road game against Detroit two days later, as well as a Feb. 15 home game against UIC.
YSU lost to the Titans in overtime but beat the Flames.
Weber did play a Feb. 13 home game against Green Bay (which YSU lost 71-40) and in Thursday’s 88-83 overtime win over visiting Milwaukee, although he was largely ineffective in both. He wore a clear facemask in both contests. Weber had been the team’s second-best shooter, behind Kendrick Perry, during Horizon League play.
Keene has not dressed for a game since the suspension. The Texas native averaged 8.6 points in YSU’s 15 non-conference games, but his minutes dwindled in Horizon League play. He’s appeared in seven of the team’s 13 league games, averaging 2.1 points in 8.9 minutes per game.
YSU coach Jerry Slocum has sidestepped questions about Weber’s injury, as well as Keene’s suspension. When asked this week if Weber’s injury was related to Keene’s suspension, Slocum said, “He’s just indefinitely suspended. What happens in practice, stays in practice.”
When asked if he expected Keene to play again this season, Slocum said, “It’s indefinite. It’s an ongoing thing for me to try to evaluate everything and I’m not being coy. I couldn’t tell you right now.”
Neither Weber nor Keene has been available for comment since the incident. The players’ parents did not respond to emails asking for comment.
YSU athletic director Ron Strollo was contacted on Friday, but declined comment.
Slocum admitted Weber has not been the same since his injury and that it has affected the team’s performance. After not practicing for almost a week, Weber scored just two points on 1 of 10 shooting with five turnovers in the loss to Green Bay. He had seven points against Milwaukee, but just two were in regulation.
Weber had been playing the best basketball of his career in the three games before the injury, surpassing his career-high in points for three straight games. He averaged 19.7 points and 5.3 rebounds over that stretch.
“It hurts us,” Slocum said of the injury. “He was our second-leading scorer in league play. I’m not sure in my time that we’ve had a player with as gaudy statistics for league [play]. He’s shooting 48 percent from floor, shooting 42-43 percent from the 3 in league play, shooting 87 percent from the foul line.
“Before the injury, he was our leading scorer in two out of our last three league games. It was significant.”
Perry, who battled a knee injury at the end of last season, sympathized with Weber’s situation following Thursday’s game against Milwaukee.
“You got to credit for his mental toughness; he’s come a long way,” Perry said. “It’s definitely frustrating. Me going through my injury last year, it’s frustrating when you come back and things aren’t clicking right away. What Ryan understands is it’s a process. It’s not going to happen overnight.”
YSU (15-13, 6-7 Horizon League) plays at Valparaiso today at 4 p.m.