Novar Gadson still trying to find himself
He doesn’t want to have to spend extra time in the training room getting treatment for his surgically repaired left knee. Or staying late to do rubber band exercises with team managers long after everyone else has gone home.
It is halfway through the season and Novar Gadson is still trying to find himself.
Gadson had microfracture surgery following the end of the 2010-11 season with the intention of being fit for the start of his senior year. He assured everybody he was 100 percent before the Broncs opened their campaign on Nov. 11. Gadson even played 30 minutes in three of the team’s first five games.
Still, something looked off with the player who finished his junior season so strongly that he was named to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Second Team and was a First Team selection this preseason.
“I thought I was OK,” Gadson admitted earlier this week at practice as Rider prepared to face Marist Friday night in a MAAC game.
In the game against Maryland-Baltimore County on Dec. 17, Gadson thought he was done for good.
As he tells it, “My body went one way and my knee went the other way. It came to a point where I was like, ‘I’m done.’”
But when he woke up the next morning, Gadson said he felt fine. He doesn’t really have the words to explain it. All he knows is that when he got up, he didn’t feel any pain.
“I think it’s better,” Gadson said. “I’m moving better, I feel better. When I run it doesn’t hurt.”
He followed that with 28 minutes at Stony Brook and then his best performance of the year against Manhattan.
Gadson scored 21 points on 6 of 9 shooting in 30 minutes. He got to the foul line seven times, making all seven free throws. Coincidentally, Rider played its best game of the season, building a 22-point first-half lead before holding on for an 11-point victory in a performance that breathed some life into a season that is still on life support.
“When he plays like that it makes life easier for everybody,” said coach Tommy Dempsey, whose team sits at 4-11 overall and 1-2 in the conference. “When he’s playing well, we have a sense of normalcy. When he’s struggling and not in the lineup, guys start trying to figure out, ‘What’s my role?’ and end up doing too much. When he’s playing like he’s supposed to be playing, everybody else falls into place.”
For Gadson to play a high level, it depends on his health.
He hadn’t started a game in more than a month before Dempsey reinserted him into the starting five against Manhattan.
“It’s very frustrating sitting and watching,” Gadson said. “That’s the one thing I hate.”
Although he tells Dempsey he is feeling much better, the coach is still cautious about Gadson’s workload. There are days Dempsey sits him out of practice and others when he gives him a reduced amount to do.
“The doctors tell us he has a high pain tolerance,” Dempsey said. “I have to go by how he tells me he’s feeling. He’s pretty good about letting us know when he can and can’t go.”
What Gadson isn’t willing to do is let 2012 go down like the back half of 2011. A 1-10 start gave this group the unceremonious honor of owning the school’s worst season-opening stretch in 68 years.
Even tougher than the pain his knee gives him.
“For us to win, we need leadership because this is our last shot,” Gadson said. “I made a promise to myself and to my family that I’m going to better their lives and my life in the future, and I’m going to continue to try and do that.
“I don’t want to sit here and use my knee as an excuse.”