MARQUETTE - The Northern Michigan University basketball team suffered a major blow on the boards when it learned Tuesday freshman forward Nea Makela and sophomore forward Abbey DeBruin will be out at Grand Valley State on Thursday and Ferris State on Friday in GLIAC play.
Makela leads the Wildcats in rebounding, averaging 6.0 per game while DeBruin is third, averaging 4.7 board per contest.
"Those two are severe blows to us but hopefully we have the depth and can bounce back," NMU head coach Troy Mattson said.
"The one positive thing about this team is we knew coming in we had a lot of depth. People are going to have to step up and play. (Sophomores) Brooke Coenen, Courtney Lemon and Maria Almquist have all played major minutes over their two seasons so far. They understand what they need to do. We might be able to absorb this for awhile."
Makela's season could be in danger after the freshman from Tampere, Finland tore her meniscus Saturday at the Berry Events Center against Lake Erie College. Despite the injury, Makela finished the game and led NMU in scoring with 15 points in the 68-63 victory.
Mattson said Makela will have an MRI on Monday to gauge the severity of the tear. If it's minor, Mattson projected she could be out 3-4 weeks. If it's more serious, then NMU will consider shutting her down.
"She's had (a meniscus tear) before and actually played on it before she had surgery," Mattson said. "We're going to take the precautionary route. She's young. She's only a freshman."
Makela has appeared in all 12 games this season for NMU - averaging 20.8 minutes per outing - with five starts. Offensively, she is third on the Wildcats in scoring, averaging 9.2 points per game.
"She's been a huge contributor for a 12th-game freshman," Mattson said. "She's been a really big contributor. She's been getting us a lot of points from the post and 3-point line. We're going to miss that."
DeBruin's undisclosed injury isn't as severe, but her absence will be felt. In 11 games and five starts, DeBruin is averaging 24.5 minutes and 7.1 points per night.
"Abbey is a major person for us," Mattson said. "She's probably our best rebounder and also a very good person putting the ball on the floor and getting the ball to the basket. We lose a lot of dribble penetration without Abbey in the game. If we have a weakness, it's having people who can put the ball on the floor and make plays."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.