Updated: Apr 20, 2020
"Be good to your body."
This is the advice I received as a 17-year-old kid just entering my career as a college basketball player. “You’re going to want to be able to run around with your kids one day.”
Psh, yeah yeah okay.
When you’re a 17-year-old kid, adults don’t know anything. I’ll be just fine. This of course, is when I had already successfully come back strong from TWO ACL surgeries before even starting college basketball. And let’s not forget, I played my whole senior year with a torn meniscus and partially torn ACL pushing the surgery off until after the season because I was stubborn and wanted to be a McDonald’s All American.
Well, I became a McDonald’s All American, but the constant pain and casual knee dislocation didn’t make it the easiest route to get there. But hey, I got the accolades and the cool gear I really wanted, and when you're 17 that's all that matters right?
Probably not my smartest, most body conscious decision looking back.
When I arrived at Duke my freshman year, due to some complications from my previous surgery, I had what I thought was going to be my last and final surgery, an “easy clean up”. Sounds simple...no biggie I thought.
Surgery count - Three.
(I have to clarify the count because you could easily lose track following this.)
When I got to college, I was on a mission. I was going to be the hardest worker in the gym. That’s how I got to Duke in the first place anyways. My dad wasn’t an NBA player, and my mom wasn’t an Olympic athlete (no offense mom and dad). My dad is a farmer (a great one that is!) who’s never touched a basketball in his life and my mom lives and dies by the granny shot. To be honest, she has the form PERFECTED... but needless to say, the basketball genes don't run in my family.
Once rehabbing strong from my 3rd knee surgery, I was more than ready to start my college career. After essentially two and a half years of being out, my first season finally back healthy I played more minutes than any Duke freshman ever and pushed my body to its limits. I was just happy to be healthy so when my coach said run 30 sprints in the conditioning test, I ran 40. When our mile time goal was 6:20, I ran 5:20 AND spent the whole summer running extra sprints to train for it. When there was a loose ball, I dove in the stands for it.
The closest thing I can compare it to is Doug the dog from the movie "Up". He'd be doing one thing, then suddenly... SQUIRREL and he was after it. If you've seen "Up", you know what I'm talking about. Basically that was me on the court... LOOSE BALL and I was gone! I couldn't help it, that's just how I was wired.
Every day after a game, I’d wake up looking like a bruised banana. I’m not kidding, I once had a bruise that looked like the outline of the United States of America... and I was so proud.
That one developed of course, after I dove head first into a scores table for a loose ball against Notre Dame. I walked away with a black eye and a few scars (literally), one being on my lower back because I eventually needed a surgery to repair a herniated disc.