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.”