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Top 50 recruit P.J. Dozier played for years on torn ACL; ‘they couldn’t even see an ACL in there’

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PHILADELPHIA — P.J. Dozier lost his junior season as a high schooler because of a knee injury that he suffered while competing at the Adidas Nations camp in Los Angeles last August.

It wasn’t anything serious that happened, just an awkward step that resulted in a tweaked knee. But when two weeks passed without the knee feeling any better, Dozier and his family decided it was time to get it looked at.

“That’s when I finally went back to the doctor and they told me that they couldn’t even see an ACL in there,” Dozier told NBCSports.com at The Showdown, an AAU tournament hosted by Elevate Hoops in Philadelphia.

Before Dozier had even entered his teenage years, the son of former South Carolina big man Perry Dozier had suffered a serious knee injury that left him with a torn ACL and a torn MCL. The decision was made at the time to get the MCL repaired surgically, but due to fears about stunting his growth, the family opted not to have P.J.’s ACL fixed.

Between the time of the injury, the younger Dozier was named the best sixth-grader in America before developing into a top 50 recruit that is being pursued by a number of elite programs, North Carolina, Kansas, Georgetown and Indiana among them. His growth wasn’t hurt much, either, as he’s sprouted into a 6-foot-6 combo-guard. “I’m supposed to get up to 6-foot-8 or 6-foot-9, hopefully,” he said with a laugh.

But none of that changed the fact that he was playing with a torn ACL in one of his knees, something that the family knew eventually would have to get repaired. “It was hurting, but I didn’t feel like it was holding me back any,” Jones said. “After a few years, honestly I forgot about the injury [but] it’s something that had to get done. I’ve always tweaked it here and there throughout the years, but after one or two weeks, I’d feel back to normal. This was different.”

So in September of last year, as a result of the injury he suffered in LA, Dozier finally has the surgery to repair his ACL. The procedure was successful, but as is the case with any major knee surgery, it’s ten months later and Dozier is still working his way through the recovery process. He only returned to the court at the start of the summer, but according to Dozier, the priority in his rehab was put on getting back the range of motion in the knee and, once that was accomplished, “I kind of gradually went away from that and starting to strengthen it up.”

For any athlete, but particularly for a basketball player, the most difficult part about returning from an extended period of time away from the game is getting their legs back. Not just the strength, either: explosiveness, quickness and, most importantly, endurance.

“Keep hitting the weight room, keep building up my strength and agility,” Dozier said of his recovery plans this spring, while noting there we an added benefit to being forced into the weight room. “That’s one thing I feel a lot better about this year than past years. Not being able to get out on the court, that’s something I was focusing on.”

Dozier caught another break as well in that he’s not a guy that relies on his physical tools to get by. He doesn’t like to put a label on his position — “I don’t want to be a full time anything,” he said. “I want to be versatile, to play different positions as I do now.” — but that’s more because of what he’s able to do than physical limitations. He might be the smoothest player in the class, to the point that it’s hard to tell just how hard he competes, as well as an elite-level passer. He can still thrive while he waits for his knee to get back to full strength.

And he is still waiting.

“It’s close to 100%,” he said, “but I feel like I’ve got a little ways to go.”

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.

Four-star guard Fisher commits to TCU

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Jamie Dixon’s presence is already being felt in the Big 12 and on the recruiting trail.

TCU received its first commitment of the Dixon era when four-star 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher announced his decision to join the Horned Frogs on Wednesday.

“Due to how comfortable my family and I are with the coaching staff,” Fisher posted from his Twitter account, “and the emphasis the university has put on making basketball a priority, I’m committing to be a student-athlete at TCU.”

Getting a consensus top-75 prospect, who was once committed to UNLV, is a heck of a coup for being just a couple months on the job. It instantly shows the Frogs are going to be a player for some of the country’s top players, which is a necessity if you have designs on making a move up the ladder of arguably the country’s best league in the Big 12.

Maybe the most gratifying thing for TCU, though, is the reason Fisher publicly stated for making his decision, the school’s “making basketball a priority.” The hoops program has suffered immensely in the Big 12 (while the football program has flourished), winning a total of eight games in their four seasons (including a winless 2014), but the school sank $72 million into renovating its arena, made an aggressive move in firing Trent Johnson and then went out and got its dream candidate, Dixon, an alum. Fisher’s commitment is the first time those moves have shown that commitment to basketball paying off.

 

Report: Izundu’s San Diego State transfer ban rescinded

Ernie Kent
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Washington State transfer Valentine Izundu will be visiting San Diego State after all.

Coach Ernie Kent has rescinded his restriction on the 6-foot-10 graduate transfer from visiting the Aztecs, according to a report from the Spokesman-Review, citing an anonymous source. Izundu will also be reportedly visiting Fresno State and UNLV.

Izundu had previously been barred from considering the Aztecs by Kent because of suspcisions of tampering. Izundu vigorously denied that was the case as at the center of the dispute was a trip he made to San Diego for spring break. He publicly said he did not have any contact with the SDSU coaching staff , though he attended an Aztecs NIT game.

Kent, though, appears to have relented, as many coaches who have similarly faces public pressure in such situations before him have. In this era where so much attention is being paid to player rights and welfare, there only seems to be growing public sentiment against programs restricting transfers beyond the absolute bare minimum is rarely going to go over well. It may make things more difficult for coaches and programs, but it’s the deck is largely already stacked in their favor in most every other instance.

Ex-Michigan State player Keith Appling faces weapons charges

Keith Appling
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DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) Authorities say former Michigan State basketball player Keith Appling faces charges including carrying a concealed weapon after he was found in possession of guns and marijuana in suburban Detroit.

The Wayne County prosecutor’s office says 24-year-old Appling was arrested outside a Dearborn club on Sunday night. Club security called police after seeing a man pull a gun from the trunk of a car.

Prosecutors say Appling was in the driver’s seat of the car when police arrived. Officers found a handgun under the driver’s seat, a loaded weapon in the trunk and a small amount of suspected marijuana.

Weapons and marijuana possession charges were announced Wednesday.

The court says he doesn’t have a lawyer on record.

Appling played for the Spartans from 2010-2014 and plays for the NBA’s development league.

UNLV transfer to finish career at Michigan State

UNLV forward Ben Carter, right, celebrates after his team defeated Oregon in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, in Las Vegas. UNLV won 80-69. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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Former UNLV center Ben Carter announced on Wednesday that he will be transferring to Michigan State to finish his collegiate career.

Carter, who began his career at Oregon, averaged 8.6 points and 6.0 boards in his one season with UNLV before tearing his ACL in late January. He spent two seasons with the Ducks before transferring to Vegas, which is why he’s eligible immediately for the Spartans.

And that’s the biggest reason that Tom Izzo and company targeted him.

The Spartans lost Deyonta Davis to the NBA Draft after one season, a fact that became an inevitability midway through the year but one that the Spartans didn’t necessarily plan for heading into last season. Carter isn’t going to be an instant impact kind of player, particularly not when he’s coming off of an ACL injury, but he is a big body and a veteran presence on a front line that wasn’t going have much of either.