It seems almost unfair to have to sit at the dais just one day after discovering your season has been fundamentally altered by someone else’s injury. But that is exactly what Travis Ford, Fred Thatch and Yuri Collins did Thursday afternoon during the 2021-22 A10 Virtual Media Day.

“This is life.” Travis said on how he’s dealing with the recent news that star senior Javonte Perkins season has ended due to an ACL injury. “Sometimes it hits you square in the face. How you handle these situations is really important, and the example we set for our players is as important as winning games, probably more important.”

Travis and his players clearly tried to put on a positive outlook, but the shock and awe of the recent news couldn’t be avoided as the three men answered questions from a collection of Media live on ESPN+.

Despite the difficulty they are facing, and the pain for their friend, teammate, and player they shared there was a resounding defiance and perseverance that Travis Ford clearly and concisely put into words.

“No one is going to feel sorry for us.”

Even though the team itself had not met for a workout since the discovery of Perkins injury, Travis admitted that he and his staff had worked deep into the night that last handful of days trying to figure out what the path forward would be.

“We’re going to have to pivot a little bit no question. But there’s ways that we can still be, you know, a really, really, really good basketball team”. Coach Ford explained at A10 Media Day, “All of our goals, everything we want to accomplish are still there. We may have to go about it a little bit different way…but we still believe we can compete with anybody in our league, no question about it.”

The Billikens will now look to place increased focus on players who were already expected to play starring roles in the teams dynamic as well as bring along younger contributors quicker than perhaps Coach Ford would have expected. Players such as Yuri Collins, Fred Thatch, and Gibson Jimerson are highlighted as teammates you hope to see more from, and Jordan Nesbitt as a player who may need to play a more central role in the immediate.

But more than anything the coaching staff will look to introduce new ideas and focal points to their playing style to make up for the statistical loses the team now has to overcome. Rather than placing that burden on any one particular player.

“We’re not hiding from the reality…we just lost 20 points a game and probably one of the best players in the country. Let’s not hide from that. What are we going to do about it? What we have focused on as a staff… through the night and early this morning… is other ways to score.”

An example Ford highlights are those conversations that haven’t necessarily been spoken about, for instance, Jordan Nesbitt won’t be specifically asked to provide 15 points a game. “That’s not fair to him” he explains, “It’s not fair to our team, or whoever it may be.”

Instead, institutionally the Billikens will look for more ways they can contribute. More ways for how they can create.

“I’m going to ask everybody to contribute. We’re going to ask everybody to get a few more offensive rebounds, we’re going to ask, alright, we may need to find a few more deflections and steals that lead to some easy buckets on the other end. We have goals on how many free throws we want to shoot a game and things like that, that might be up a little bit, we need to get to the free throw line a little bit more and get some more points. So, we’ve talked about more ways to generate offense rather than we’ve talked about individual players more offensively, you know, no question.”

While a lot of things may change, Coach Ford does believe there will be continuity for what they had planned for Javonte. Indicating that he feels lots of plays that were designed for Perkins can be transitioned to function for players like Gibson Jimerson, or Fred Thatch.

Ford also believes that the team culture that he has fostered is something that they can fall back on. That despite a roster built on more shooting depth compared to his previous teams, that this team can still be the physical presence the Billikens have come to be known as. Saying that, even before Javonte’s injury, “We weren’t going to get away from our identity this year at all.”

The once highly touted Billikens, who were getting dark horse consideration to be A10 champions and be in the NCAA tournament hunt may now be considered underdogs. Ranked third in the official A10 pre-season poll, Travis Ford and his staff have to scrap everything and go back to the drawing board with just nine days to spare.

But the attitude of the staff is one that should encourage its supporters. Travis Ford has asked his players to be tough for him, and so he will be tough for his players.

“We’re not going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves.”

Toughness remains in the halls of Chaifetz Arena.