OXFORD – Three injured players, whose absence changed the face of Ole Miss basketball last season, are poised for medical release and return to full activity.
One, sophomore Trevor Gaskins, has already received that release. Chris Warren and Eniel Polynice could reach that level by July 4 or shortly after.
“It’s just a few more weeks for both of those guys, probably less than a month,” said men’s basketball trainer Clarke Holter. “Trevor can play in all the pick-up games now. There has been no sign of pain or setbacks. He’s essentially full go.”
Gaskins and Warren sustained torn anterior cruciate knee ligaments. Gaskins’ injury came in preseason practice last year, while Warren’s came after the team had almost completed its non-conference schedule costing him a year of eligibility that will not be recovered.
Polynice’s injury was trickier. He had surgery following the 2007-2008 season to clean up some minor issues within the knee, or so it was believed. He played the first game of 2008-2009 but arthroscopic surgery soon after revealed cartilage damage and loose fragments that caused him to miss the remainder of what would have been his junior season. He is expected to receive a medical redshirt.
“There have been no red flags to this point, and we couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.
The fourth knee injury to watch belongs to Zach Graham, another guard and a rising junior. His rehab is farther behind, because he played through the injury, a partially torn patella tendon, last season, essentially replacing Polynice and growing into one of the team’s top defenders.
Graham is 12 weeks past surgery and is jogging in the pool. He’s expected to jog outside a month from now. Without complications he should be released by late summer or early fall.
In the final days, the rehab for Warren and Polynice is very sports specific.
“They’re both very close to full participation,” Holter said. “We’re working on improve the stability in the injured leg, working on power and explosiveness as it relates to basketball.”
Kennedy expects full recovery for all four players. They’re all expected to play key roles on a team looking for the program’s first NCAA tournament bid since 2002 in Kennedy’s fourth season as head coach.
While a lot of attention is placed on Warren and Polynice, players with All-SEC potential, Kennedy is eager to see Gaskins on the floor again, especially with the departure of shooting guard David Huertas. Huertas was the SEC’s fourth-leading scorer last year and left after his junior season to pursue professional basketball in his native Puerto Rico.
Gaskins average 14.9 minutes and shot 38.7 percent from 3-point range as a freshman in 2007-2008.
“He’s the one quid in the equation that gets lost. He was injured so early you forget what he brought to the table,” Kennedy said. “He was probably our best perimeter shooter, and there’s a toughness and emotion about him. He’s capable of coming in and doing a number of different things to help us.”
Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal