How does it feel now compared to right after the surgery?
It feels a lot better. I’d say about four weeks about the surgery it started to feel real good, and that’s when I took off the brace. I’m comfortable again.
It’s got to be tough, huh? You’re a freshman, you’re trying to play Division I college basketball, and now all of a sudden you have to deal with that too?
I’m 6-8 and about 208. These guys are 6-9, 6-10 and about 240. It’s tough. I’m quicker than them but it’s still tough.
For the first couple of games, were you not quicker than them because of your knee?
Not only that, but I was trying to get used to the offense and used to playing with the guys, so I didn’t have my quickness yet and I was trying to get a feel for the game. So early on it was (the knee) and it was knowing what was going on in the offense.
Do you feel now you’re quick enough to get by those 6-10, 240 guys?
Yeah. Now I’ll take the ball, drive it and then kick it to Harris or one of the shooters. Being quicker than those guys is helping the team a lot.
Did it feel good to crack the starting lineup last month?
Oh yeah, especially against Drexel on CN8. That was big for me. The coaches told me to just go out there and play hard – play some defense, block some shots I’d start. Ever since then, I’ve started.
After a couple of games I didn’t start and I wasn’t getting that much playing time, coach pulled me aside and talked to me and said just keep playing hard, keep going hard in practice and let it come to you, and you’ll get your time to play.
Do you feel that the game has come to you now?
Yeah, it definitely has. It feels good now.
Do you feel that now that the knee is behind you you can focus more on refining your post moves?
Yeah, especially when it comes to working with my right hand. I try to go to my right hand a lot. I’m left-handed and I go to my left a lot, but coach has been trying to get me to go right, and I’ve been working hard down low on those post moves.
Do you try to use that right hand a lot in practice?
I’ll do that on occasion. I’m so used to going with my left, but sometimes I use my right. I know I have to improve on that, so I’m trying to keep it on my right. Before practice I try to go back and forth between my left and my right.
Have you scored in a game with the right yet?
I have. It hasn’t been like drive and lay it up with my right, but I’m working on that.
In the first couple of games, were you worrying about the knee buckling or getting hurt during games?
I was definitely hesitant. I didn’t want to make the wrong move where it would twitch or get it bent in the wrong way, so I just tried to stay calm in the post. I wasn’t trying to be a scorer. I was just trying to work with the offense.
What kind of conversations did you have with Justin Robinson, who also had surgery to repair a torn meniscus?
At first I asked him how it felt afterward and what he did to keep it contained. He said it’s a quick heeling process, just get the treatment and you’ll be fine. He said after the surgery, the next morning it’s going to hurt like hell. It definitely did. But he gave me some good pointers and they helped a lot.
How long after the surgery did a stop hurting?
Well, four days after the surgery I was walking normal. I did a lot of work with Henry to develop it faster. We did a lot of squats, moved my legs up and down with some weights, a lot of moving with the ball, balancing it with weights. I did it every day before and after practice, and it got a lot stronger.
Is this where you thought you’d be about half way through your freshman year?
Definitely. Before I came here, coach said if you work hard, we’re going to need you to help the team out as much as possible. I said hey, I’m looking forward to it, and even with the surgery, I’m getting some good PT and I feel confident.
Do you feel this team is in position to be peeking in March?
Yeah. Us having two losses in Buffalo, we had to make a turnaround and we did. We feel confident. We’ve got (six of the next nine games) at home so we feel real good right now. We have that home court advantage.