Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Heels have holes

The already depleted UNC basketball team took another hit when it was announced that seldom used center Damion Grant will not play basketball again after injuring his ankle. Grant was sidelined last season due to a stress fracture in his foot. This is another blow to a very thin frontcourt that will rely heavily on freshman Tyler Hansbrough and senior reserve Byron Sanders. Roy Williams could play 6-6 forward David Noel at the 4 position but he would be undersized compared to other ACC players. Adding in the wrist surgery to Marcus Ginyard after a fall in a summer league game and the euphoria over the national title might end very quickly in Chapel Hill.

DJ Strawberry getting healthy
Nice article in the Baltimore Sun about DJ's gruelling work to rebound from his knee injury of last year. He was clearly devastated by his first major injury:

"The feeling of being out struck me hard," he said. "I had never really been injured before. ... The first two weeks, I didn't even want to play basketball anymore. For the first two months I was depressed. I was down on myself, asking, 'Why did this happen to me?'"

With the help of Strength and Conditioning coach Corliss White he has since dedicated himself to returning to the court stronger than ever. He may have lost negligible quickness, but lack of quickness was never his problem. In fact it often was that he used it too much and forced plays or turned over the ball in a moment of willy nilly.

Maryland didn't look fantastic before his injury in mid January but it was fairly pathetic in the 3 losses to Clemson and 2 blowout defeats to NC State that followed it. A win in any of those five games would have likely insured another NCAA appearance. Strawberry would have easily made the difference in a team that stumbled into the NIT on a 4 game losing streak. His defense was a little shaky compared to his freshman year, as he often overplayed passing lanes in hopes of an easy steal, but he had improved his ball handling and shooting. Strawberry may never be a great passer or shooter but he has proven he can generate offense by his aggressive defense.

He needed fluid drained from his knee but that was not considered a "setback" by the staff. With a healthy and confident Strawberry Maryland's hopes of returning to the NCAA tournament and contending in a weakened ACC improve dramatically.

Other Notes:
You'll notice I carefully avoided using the term "rehab" in the section on DJ Strawberry. Given his father's issues with the other kind of rehab I felt it would be gauche to use the term. Not that it hasn't prevented loathsome "fans" at places like Florida from taunting him on the subject. Darryl Strawberry was back in the news again for filing a false police report about a stolen rental SUV. Apparently the police noticed that on the gas station surveillance camera he was a passenger in a totally different vehicle. The one he claimed was stolen was found in the parking lot of a nearby sports bar. The woman he gave the keys to reported it to police.

It makes me consider more than just the fallibility of human beings but also their opportunism. Two years ago when DJ was a freshman at Maryland his father showed up for a number of nationally televised games, including the Florida game that featured vile taunts from the shiftless students there, but none of the other lower profile games. DJ's mother had a highly publicized split from his father and Darryl was practically absent from his life after that. At the time I felt it was a shameless attempt to keep himself in the spotlight and not a genuine attempt to reconcile with his son. As Darryl spends more time on probation and in jail it seems he was far from turning his life around. As pitiable as Darryl Strawberry may be his son is as admirable in his way. May his hard work and determination be rewarded this year.

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