Jared Sullinger’s Medical Red Flags Call Into Question His Draft Status

Posted by EJacoby on June 19th, 2012

Jared Sullinger was one of college basketball’s biggest stars the past two seasons, entering Ohio State as the #2 consensus player in his high school class and consequently producing at an elite level for the Buckeyes from day one. The 6’9″ fundamental machine averaged over 17 PPG and 9 RPG in back-to-back seasons, becoming a First Team All-American in both years. He led OSU to a #1 seed and Sweet Sixteen appearance in his freshman year before igniting the Buckeyes even further in 2011-12 — all the way to the Final Four. Yet Sullinger saw his draft stock slowly drop throughout college, from a potential #1 pick to just borderline top 10 status as of early June’s Draft Combine, due to concerns about his NBA upside stemming from limited athleticism. He failed to impress during Combine measurements and testing, finishing dead last of 52 competitors in the agility and sprint drills while showing up with 10.7% body fat.

Sullinger is now swarmed with obstacles in preparation of the NBA draft (Reuters photo/M. Sullivan)

But things got much worse on Monday, after Sullinger was reportedly red flagged by NBA doctors who have serious concerns about a long term back injury. Team doctors worry that “back issues could shorten his NBA career” and some medical staffs “advised their teams not to draft him in the first round,” according to ESPN’s Chad Ford. This news will make it even more challenging for Sullinger’s professional prospects — somehow, this dominant college big man with consistent professional intrigue may not even get selected as a first round NBA pick. Could Sullinger wind up becoming a late steal (think: DeJuan Blair), or should concerns about his physical condition validate passing on him in this deep draft?

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Coach K Ups The Ante With The Possibility Of Kyrie Irving’s Return

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2011

From the moment that Duke cut down the nets in Indianapolis last April there was an expectation that this year’s team with the addition of the much-hyped point guard recruit Kyrie Irving could actually pull of the rare repeat. While many questioned Irving’s abilities before the Devils’ opening night game against Princeton those questions were quickly answered as Irving asserted himself as the best player on the team and quite possibly the country. With each brilliant performance by Irving the Devils became the odds-on favorite to win the national title and become only the third team since 1973 to repeat as NCAA champions. At its fever pitch, the hype around this Duke team became so much that we felt compelled to publish a column asking whether the Blue Devils could actually go undefeated.

Will Kyrie Irving return on Friday?

Unfortunately for Duke, that was published before the extent to which Irving had injured his toe against Butler had become apparent (actually, the severity of the injury still isn’t clear). Following Irving’s injury the Blue Devils slipped from being the favorite to being one of the favorites and were at times severely outplayed at the point guard position like they were on March 5th against Kendall Marshall and UNC in a game that cost them the ACC regular season title. Throughout Irving’s prolonged recovery college basketball fans wondered whether Irving would return this season or if he would ever play another game in a Blue Devil uniform. Those hopes were boosted prior to Duke’s ACC quarterfinal win against Maryland when Irving ran through some drills before the game started.

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The Curious Case Of Maurice Creek

Posted by jstevrtc on January 18th, 2011

The Louisville Courier-Journal’s Rick Bozich — one of the friendliest pros we’ve run across in our travels, by the way — wrote yesterday that Indiana sophomore guard Maurice Creek suffered a stress fracture in his right kneecap during the Hoosiers’ game against Michigan on Saturday. If that sounds familiar, unfortunately it’s not because you’re experiencing a deja vu right now. During IU’s 12th game last last season (Bryant, on 12/28), Creek fractured his left patella and missed the rest of the year. It looks like he’ll have to shut it down for the rest of this season, now, too. You’re reading that correctly. That’s two kneecaps — each with a fracture.

As Mr. Bozich points out in the linked article (you have to click on it and read it, as we explain below), Creek was still showing the effect of last year’s injury in that he didn’t exhibit the same quickness on drives or the same spring we saw last year when jumping off the left leg. Before going out last season, Creek was leading Indiana in scoring (16.4 PPG), points per 40 minutes (25.8), and steals (1.4 SPG) in 25.4 minutes per game. This year (through this past Saturday), Creek was fifth on the team in scoring (8.3 PPG), sixth in PP40 (16.6), and was snagging only 0.2 SPG in an average of 20 minutes per game.

After 11 Games Last Year, Creek Looked Like a Sure One-And-Done. Now, He'd Prefer Just To Get Through a Whole Season At IU

The odd symmetry and style of Creek’s injuries got us thinking, and we’d like any kinesiologists out there (or anyone who knows about this stuff) to step up and bring some knowledge. Is there something about Creek’s running or jumping mechanics that makes him susceptible to such injuries? The mechanism of a patellar fracture is — just as you’d figure — usually a hard blow to the front of the knee. More rarely, you can fracture your kneecap by flexing your quads while the knee is totally bent. Bilateral kneecap breaks usually only happen in stories involving mobsters wielding baseball bats, or in traumas like falls or car crashes (which can also cause unilateral kneecap fractures, to be fair). Creek’s injuries involve two different knees at two different times, and neither of them is related to any blunt trauma to the knees. Is this coincidental?

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The Toe: Diagnosis, Please

Posted by jstevrtc on January 11th, 2011

One month and one week ago, Duke beat Butler, 82-70. Scanning Duke’s schedule, it looks like just another Blue Devil win, part of their perfect campaign up to this point. Just about every follower of college basketball knows, however, that that was the day we started the clock on Toe Watch 2010-11. It was the game in which Kyrie Irving sustained that bizarre injury to his right big toe on what looked like a routine drive to the basket that he quickly decided against making when pain consumed his foot.

Nobody Wanted To See This.

Just as strange as the actual injury, though, has been the mystery surrounding it. We’re not talking about the difference between how benign it looked at the time and how devastating it apparently is. We’re talking about…well, that’s the problem. None of us knows what we’re talking about. It happened 38 days ago, and we still haven’t been told the diagnosis.

The Fayetteville Observer’s Dan Wiederer has been at the forefront of Toe Watch 2010-11, and has chronicled well the mystery that for some reason engulfs Irving’s impaired digit. For example, on January 6th, Wiederer posted an article on his blog in which he reveals the answer he was given by assistant coach Chris Collins when he asked Collins what, in fact, the injury was. He quoted the coach thusly:

“It’s a combination of things,” Collins said. “There’s a ligament and some bone in there that have been damaged. And from what we’ve seen, it’s a very unique injury. It’s a form of turf toe but it’s a little more severe than that. It’s been hard to explain in layman’s terms. But because it’s in the ball of his foot, that’s a really dicey area. That’s where you do all your cutting and your jumping. And that’s where you do all of your pushing off from. That’s what’s made this all the more delicate. I don’t know that the injury has an exact label. If it has a name, I don’t know what it is. But it’s something that we need to make sure gets healed correctly before Kyrie even thinks about playing. Because otherwise he could have more problems down the road.”

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Chris Otule & Kevin Laue Remind Us to Stop Complaining

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2011

The human body is an amazingly adaptable entity when faced with adversity.  If it’s extremely cold, blood rushes from its extremities into the core to keep the central organs warm and functioning.  If it’s too hot, buckets of sweat seep from its pores to act as an internal cooling mechanism.  When injured, the fight-or-flight mechanism often makes a dangerous situation into a survivable one by buying time for the individual to get to safety.  We all know these things to be true, and therefore it should be no surprise when we learn of astonishing people in the athletic realm doing astonishing things with their bodies.  And yet we are.

Chris Otule (in goggles) Was Outed as Having One Eye Last Week (AP)

Such was the case late last week when, during the Marquette-Vanderbilt game on ESPN2, commentator Mark Gottfried told the viewing audience that Golden Eagle center Chris Otule has only one functional eye.  Come again?  Most people, including many members of the Marquette fanbase, were not aware of the redshirt sophomore’s physical limitation, which begs the question of how Gottfried knew about it (did he recruit Otule while still at Alabama?) and why he chose a national television audience to out the player.  Notwithstanding the possible HIPAA violation that Gottfried committed while on air, the bigger question is this: HOW ON EARTH DO YOU PLAY DIVISION ONE BASKETBALL WITH ONE EYE???

This is phenomenal.  See, the beauty of having two eyes in our heads is that it provides us with what the smart folks call stereoscopic binocular vision, or essentially, the ability to see clearly in three dimensions.  That third dimension relating to depth perception is the key, because it allows other animals an ability to gauge how far away their prey is and how fast it is going, while also allowing us human folks the convenient ability to accurately pass, catch and shoot a basketball while on the move.  Now, with only one eye, a person can still gauge depth, but it becomes much more difficult, especially at close ranges.  Even at farther lengths, it takes longer for a single eye to make determinations of relative distances, and the accompanying field of peripheral vision has been estimated as 25% smaller.

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Loss Of Gaddy Isn’t About Numbers For Washington

Posted by jstevrtc on January 5th, 2011

Washington’s Abdul Gaddy tore the ACL in his left knee during practice yesterday and will miss the rest of the 2010-11 season. The injury happened as he planted his left leg during a drive to the basket. Counting surgery and rehab time, he should be back at full speed in 6-9 months.

Gaddy Will Have Surgery Some Time In the Next Two Weeks And Should Be Ready For the Start of the 2011-12 Season

Gaddy had made significant improvements this season when compared with his performance last year. As a 17-year old freshman (he won’t turn 19 until later this month), Gaddy was not mentally or physically prepared for the college game and certainly not ready for the expectations that came with being tagged as the nation’s second-best point guard in his recruiting class. This season, however, after a summer of working hard on aspects of his game upon which coach Lorenzo Romar told him he needed to improve (specifically strength, speed, and shooting), Gaddy has flourished. He averaged only 3.9 PPG, shot 41% from the field, a downright frigid 15% from three point range, and 51% from the free throw line in 18.2 MPG last year, and often found himself on the bench at ends of games. This season, he’s averaged 23.2 MPG, 8.3 PPG, and has shot remarkably better, improving his rate from the floor (50%) and especially from beyond the arc (40.6%) and at the line (81.8%). Looks like that off-season work paid off.

Gaddy’s care of the basketball was the most impressive aspect of his play this year. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.1 to 1 put him at the top of the Pac-10 and tied him for 14th nationally. When we interviewed him last summer, you could tell how excited he was for his sophomore campaign to begin and for the chance to unveil his more polished game to fans, coaches, and fellow players.

Washington has five other guards who each average at least 14 minutes a game, so Gaddy’s production will be spread out over his teammates with relative ease. What UW lost here was a coachable, patient player who was developing well as a floor leader even at this early stage of his career. It’s often used as a cliche’ or as filler material to say that a team will miss what a player brings to the squad in terms of leadership and things that can’t be measured on a stat sheet just as much as they’ll miss the actual points, rebounds and steals he contributes. In this case, though it’s a completely accurate assessment.

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A Toe Moves, Duke Nation’s Heart Flutters…

Posted by rtmsf on January 4th, 2011

Duke fans the world over have spent most of the holiday season wishing for Santa to bring superstar point guard Kyrie Irving a healthy toe, looking for any sign in the stars that such a gift is forthcoming.  The reason, of course, is that the nation’s #1 team instantly becomes numero uno with a giant bullet if Irving can return to the court with a completely healthy appendage (is a toe an appendage?).  Instead of being the mere favorite to cut the nets down again in March, the Devils become the Goliath.  So you’ll forgive our Durham friends if they’re feeling a little anxious about the continuing status of limbo, which, like many of us wont to the supernatural,  may cause them to find meaning in things that probably don’t really have much. 

The Most Tracked Toe in America... Moved.

It’s a little bit like walking into that 8th-grade party and seeing your crush — the most perfect girl you can ever imagine —  across the room looking in your direction.  Your heart leaps into your throat beating a thousand times per minute; you suddenly feel as if the thermostat in the room skyrocketed; and, if you could climb under a napkin to avert the knowing, mocking, relentless gaze of Your Chosen One, you would.  But that rush is incredible.  What does it mean?  Was she looking for you to come into the party?  Was she staring at the wall behind you?  Does she even know that you’re alive?

Such is the situation that was exhibited on Sunday night with Kyrie Irving (and his toe safely secured in a walking boot) on the bench during Duke’s game versus Miami (FL).  When the FSN camera gazed longingly at Irving’s foot, Duke fans were sent into a maniacal frenzy.  Behold, the toe MOVED…  what does it all mean?!?!?!  (h/t Duke Hoop Blog


We’re no doctor, having only played one before on this site, but the uneducated guess here is that movement of the toe is not necessarily indicative of whether it’s healthy.  We once blew out a couple of knees with a highlight-reel dunk (think Baron Davis at UCLA), but even after the pain subsided and our feet were hanging onto our legs by a shoestring otherwise known as an ACL, we could still move our legs. 

As for real, actual medical advice, Irving is expected to see his doctors this week for an updated status report.  We’ll all stay tuned to that one.

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Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell Shot But Alive And At Home

Posted by jstevrtc on December 26th, 2010

We first saw the news on Twitter via Adam Zagoria and then saw this report from the New Jersey Star-Ledger’s Brendan Prunty that Seton Hall senior guard Jeremy Hazell was shot four times under the right arm last night. He was in Harlem, his hometown, and suffered only “flesh wounds” per the Star-Ledger account.

Through what must be some kind of miracle, despite taking four slugs, Hazell was treated at a local hospital, released, and is at home resting. There has as of yet been no official statement from the school regarding this incident.

Sounds Like Hazell Is Yet Another Pirate Who's Lucky To Be Alive

Hazell has been sidelined by a broken left wrist he sustained in a mid-November win against Alabama. He led Seton Hall in scoring each of the last two seasons and was again this year before the injury. A report from Mr. Zagoria’s site states that it had not yet been decided if Hazell planned to redshirt this season because of the wrist injury and come back next season, or if he was on course to play again this year, or if he had indeed played his last game at Seton Hall.

Seton Hall lost to Richmond earlier today, 61-69.

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On Rick Pitino And Concussions

Posted by jstevrtc on December 23rd, 2010

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino is taking a little heat for expressing his thoughts recently on the increasing incidence of concussions among athletes, specifically his own Cardinals. Actually, it’s not a perceived increasing number of head injuries he seems to have a problem with as much as the increasing frequency with which they seem to be diagnosed:

“It’s the seventeenth concussion we’ve had this year. I’ve been coaching now 35 years. I’ve seen maybe five concussions in 35 years. The new thing is everybody has a concussion. If you walk out and slightly brush the door, you have a concussion. That’s the way it is today.”

Sure, it’s probably not the best thing to say when you’re one of the main people responsible for the welfare of a group of young athletes, especially when you know it will probably get back to the parents. But even though it’s not said in the warmest and fuzziest tone, Pitino’s point is a fair one. That is how it is today.

Pitino Is Right: Concussions Are In Vogue, So To Speak

We’re hearing more about concussions for two reasons: the increased awareness that resulted from the NFL’s tightening of return-to-play standards for players who suffer head injuries, and the fact that concussion is a clinical diagnosis, not one that results from a specific blood or imaging test. This means that there’s more variance in what a concussion really is, leading to more instances of it being diagnosed. A knock to the head that makes you dizzy for a few moments? That’s a concussion. Did Ray Lewis blindside you with a helmet-to-helmet slobber-knocker that rendered you unconscious for a few days? That’s a concussion, too. So is everything in between.

Check out the guidelines for diagnosing and treating concussions in sports as established by the American Academy of Neurology. A helpful document, that. But painfully vague in places (could your depressed mood now be a result of the mild knock you took to the head a couple of weeks ago? Well…maybe). As we’ve said, saying “concussion” is no more informative than saying “head injury” because you can’t tell if it’s from a head butt or a harpoon. The best part of those guidelines is where it tells you how to grade the severity of the concussion, because if you can tell how bad it is, then you know how best to treat it (put ’em back in the game, or book it to the ER). The exact same information is presented in a slightly different way in a document on concussions the NCAA has provided to coaches in all sports.

You might not like the way he said it, but Rick Pitino is right in this case. It’s unlikely that there are more actual head injury-events happening. But concussions are receiving more attention in sports reporting because the NFL has made it a priority (and like it or not, we live in NFL Nation), and because a diagnosis of concussion represents one point on a wide continuum of head injuries, not just one specific entity. This can easily lead to a few more diagnoses from physicians and trainers, but that doesn’t mean the guidelines for diagnosing them are being violated. Plus, we’re dealing with people’s brains, here. If it was your head that had just taken a hit from, say, Jared Sullinger or Brian Urlacher, wouldn’t you rather the person examining you err on the side of caution?

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Quincy Miller’s Senior Season Derailed By ACL Tear

Posted by nvr1983 on December 20th, 2010

When Scott Drew got Quincy Miller and Deuce Bello to commit to play for Baylor earlier this year, Bears fans celebrated the possibility that their team could have three of the most exciting players in the nation next season if Perry Jones decided to return to Baylor for his sophomore season. Those dreams appear to have taken a hit after Miller, considered one of the top five players in this year’s senior class, went down with a season-ending ACL tear on December 10th, which was later confirmed by Miller himself [Ed. Note: We love how his coach thinks it is Miller’s left knee]. Miller will undergo surgery tomorrow morning and is expected to take 6-8 months to recover, which should allow him to return to the court just in time to get him ready for Midnight Madness next fall. Of course as Miller’s return to the court nears there will still be questions about how effective he will be when he debuts in a Baylor uniform regardless of how confident his Tweets would have you believe he is in his return.

Baylor fans will be waiting anxiously for Miller's return to action

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