Once Trevor Noonan completed his roundabout journey to the University of Denver, men's basketball coach Joe Scott tentatively penciled the Colorado native into the starting lineup for the 2010-11 season.
It would be a patient process with Noonan, but that was nothing new. Recruited by Scott and the rest of the Pioneers' coaching staff out of Legacy High School in Broomfield, Colo., the DU program initially missed out on Noonan, only to have him ultimately don the crimson and gold after transferring from the Air Force Academy. Then, as per NCAA rules, DU had to wait a year before Noonan regained his eligibility following the transfer.
This year, though, that long-simmering vision for Noonan finally was going to become reality. And, indeed, Noonan started the first seven games of the season. Unfortunately, something else has been simmering inside of Noonan: a still-undiagnosed illness that has robbed the 6-foot-9 redshirt sophomore of much of his strength and energy.
Because of Noonan's ongoing intestinal troubles, Scott has altered his game-time strategy with Noonan, brining him off the bench for shorter bursts for the past two games in a trend that likely will continue when the Pioneers host the University of Portland on Saturday afternoon.
"I just tried to take a little bit of the heat off him and say, 'OK, you're not 100 percent. You play two-three minutes at a clip and give me everything you have,'" Scott said. "I think it's the right thing for him now. He needs to immerse himself in what we're doing. I think with him being unhealthy, and the way we started...and me, I might have put a little too much pressure on him. We were expecting a lot out of him. In college basketball, usually with junior college transfers and Division I transfers, it takes them a while to get used to the grind."
After waiting patiently for his opportunity to finally make his mark with the Pioneers, Noonan was assailed by an ailment he assumed was some sort of flu bug. But the illness failed to improve, and it refused to go away. About 20 lost pounds and a few weeks later, Noonan still is nowhere near the physical condition he reached before the illness struck. And, more disturbingly, he still has no explanation.
"We're still getting everything diagnosed," Noonan said. "I'm still having some issues with it, but it's not as bad as it was the first month or so. Right now, I just have to kind of live with it. I'm still struggling with some of the same issues. I'm working on getting some strength back, but it's tough to put on weight, especially in the middle of the season. It puts a little bit of a strain on everything."
Given his weakened condition, it is a wonder Noonan has been able to contribute at all. In nine games, seven of them starts, Noonan has averaged 3.9 points and 2.7 rebounds while struggling with his shot, connecting on just 12-of-45 chances.
However, in Noonan's first game off the bench during last week's home victory against Cal State Northridge, Scott's plan to unleash Noonan in shorter, more energetic stints appeared to pay dividends. In only 14 minutes, Noonan recorded three rebounds, four assist, one blocked shot and one steal, while earning six free throw attempts.
"I'm going to go with whatever coach says, and if he is going to put me out there, I'm going to give everything I've got. That's all I can do," Noonan said. "I thought it worked out well getting out there and doing whatever I could for the team. When you're in the heat of a game, (the illness) is not something you notice as much. I've noticed it in certain areas, like in my explosion and my overall strength. It's not where it normally is. But I don't let it bother me when I'm out playing, because thinking about that is just going to take away from thinking about everything else I have to get done."