Pictured: Jeremy Arnum ices his broken wrist after suffering the injury in Valley’s game at Morgan on Feb. 20.
By Paul Augeri
Barring a setback in his recovery from a broken right wrist, 6-foot-3 Valley Regional sophomore Jeremy Arnum hopes to return in time for the Shoreline Conference tournament later this month.
Arnum, arguably the league’s top all-around talent, was injured in the second quarter of the Warriors’ game against Shoreline leader Morgan on Feb. 20 when he landed on his arm after being fouled at the rim. He averaged 19.5 points, five rebounds and three steals in three-plus games.
“I’m staying in the cast and I dribble every so often,” Arnum told middlesexcountysports.com recently. “For now I’m just practicing and working on things with my left hand. The doctor said I could be back in three weeks.”
That time frame puts Arnum in line to play in the Shoreline quarterfinals.
The 12-game regular season is scheduled to end on March 18. The conference tournament is scheduled to begin March 20 with four play-in games involving seeds 5 through 12 (the top four receive a bye into the quarters). The quarterfinals are March 23, the semifinals March 25 and the championship game on March 27.
Valley is 2-3 without Arnum in the lineup, 5-3 overall and fifth in the Shoreline entering Monday’s home game against Old Lyme.
“He got unlucky (with the injury),” Warriors coach Kevin Woods said. “Sometimes bad things happen to good people.”
Despite graduating nine seniors from a roster that produced year’s 16-win team, Woods believed this year’s team would compete for the conference championship. The heart of the roster starts with the talent of Arnum and includes juniors Saagar Patel, James Marsden and Simon Partyka, and senior Marcus SantaMaria.
“Jeremy scores inside and outside, he rebounds, he defends the opponent’s top player, he jumps the ball and he creates,” Woods said.
“He’s such a mature young man, too. Just an unbelievable talent,” added Woods. “I think his talent is unparalleled in our league. We’re very fortunate to have someone like Jeremy in our program. Then when you lose someone like him, you have to reidentify yourself.”
Arnum and two of his closest friends, SantaMaria and Partyka, spent their COVID downtime last summer to build team chemistry.
“We used the time off to get ourselves ready to lead the team,” Arnum said. “We wanted the others on the team to learn from us and then play as physical as we can and have that mentality of, ‘Oh, we’re young this year but we’ve got to play really big this year.’
“Just from watching the seniors and playing with them last year gave me the confidence of taking a lead role on this team and showing them we can win. We have confidence in each other now and we believe in each other. We never leave somebody behind. We call out mistakes but we always help teammates out. We want them to learn from their mistakes, because last year I had reassurance from the seniors that I could be a better player and that we’d all get through it together.”
After the high school season, Arnum plays for the Team Spartans AAU program, which has players from Massachusetts and Connecticut, some of whom are top college prospects. He has practiced against the likes of 7-foot Donovan Clingan of Bristol Central.
“I’ve had to practice going over him – and getting blocked all the time,” Arnum said. “But playing against bigger kids has helped me with my game. Ever since middle school, I’ve had a high standard for myself and I like to play against people who are better than me and stronger than me because it makes me a better player.”
In Valley’s game last week at Portland, with Arnum not in uniform and a brace protecting his wrist, the Warriors rallied from a 13-point deficit in the third quarter to beat the Highlanders 64-60. Partyka, who had a game-high 22 points, said Valley’s players miss Arnum and are inspired to play hard for him.
“We played with a lot of heart for that kid,” Partyka said. “He wants to see us play a whole game the way he’d expect us to — hard.”