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Three ACL tears won’t keep Creighton’s Martin Krampelj off court

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OMAHA, Neb. — No one would have blamed Creighton’s Martin Krampelj if he had decided basketball wasn’t for him anymore after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Coming back from one ACL tear is quite common.

Coming back from three is not.

Krampelj was establishing himself as one of the most improved players in the Big East when he stepped awkwardly on teammate Kaleb Joseph’s right foot during a game against Seton Hall on Jan. 17. He got the bad news the next day, and if there was any self-pitying thought of “Oh, no, not again,” it was fleeting.

“When I got my MRI results, I was like, ‘I’m coming back,’ ” Krampelj said. “It’s so worth it.”

The 6-foot-9, 235-pound junior forward from Slovenia (his name is pronounced Mar-TEEN CROM-pul) knew all too well what was ahead following surgery. The rehabilitation process is not only hard work, it can be painful. There are mental obstacles, none more prevalent than fear of re-injury. He also would have to rebuild his conditioning.

“There would be a lot of people giving it up after the first or second one,” Krampelj said. “I’m not a quitter. I’m not going to give up, and that’s it.”

Krampelj first tore his left ACL during a tournament in France in 2013 in a non-contact situation. He tore his right ACL during a practice early in the 2015-16 season when he got tangled with former teammate Zach Hanson. And then there was the fluke landing on Joseph’s foot that resulted in yet another tear in the left knee.

“Everything happens for a reason. I believe in that,” Krampelj said. “You never know what it’s good for. God gives the toughest battles to the toughest soldiers.”

Former Purdue star Robbie Hummel, who came back from two ACL tears in 2010, said he isn’t sure he would have the wherewithal to do what Krampelj is attempting.

“It’s hard to continually put everything you have into something and to be consistently disappointed by it, especially with something that should be joyful,” Hummel said. “It’s fun to play college basketball, it’s fun to play a sport at a high level like that. When you keep getting let down in a way, it can be really, really frustrating and really hard. Respect to Martin for coming back again and again because it is a tough process.”

Dr. Andrew Cosgarea, professor of orthopedic surgery and chief of the Division of Sports Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said while it’s not unusual for people to tear ACLs multiple times, it’s rare for elite athletes to play at the same level following multiple tears.

“There is such a finite opportunity for success at the Division I and professional level, and I think you run out of time, you become selected out, you lose those opportunities when you’re gone that much,” Cosgarea said.

Creighton head athletic trainer Ben McNair said Krampelj’s upbeat attitude has helped him battle through the arduous rehab. When dealing with one or more ACL tears, McNair said, the medical staff explains to the athlete the higher risk of re-injury and lays out the rehab plan, and then it’s up to the athlete whether he or she wants to do the work necessary to play again.

“Martin is a full-speed-ahead kind of guy. Usually, you have to pull the reins back on him rather than kick him in the butt,” McNair said.

Krampelj played on national teams in Slovenia before leaving in 2014 to attend Impact Academy in Sarasota, Florida. He drew recruiting interest from West Virginia, Rhode Island, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech but was sold on Creighton when 14,000 fans showed up to watch an exhibition game during his official campus visit.

He took a redshirt year after the ACL tear seven games into the 2015-16 season, and he backed up first-round draft pick Justin Patton during an injury-free 2016-17. Before getting hurt last January, Krampelj was averaging 11.9 points and 8.1 rebounds and was second in the Big East in field goal percentage.

Until now, Creighton coach Greg McDermott has never had a player attempt a comeback after three ACL tears in his 25 years as a head coach. Though Krampelj injured an ankle in preseason practice, he’s being counted on right away to give the Bluejays a strong inside presence. His leadership also is needed on a team that lost four of its top six scorers, including Marcus Foster and NBA draft pick Khyri Thomas.

McDermott likes Krampelj’s chances for a successful return.

“To come back and be as athletic as he is, there is not one ounce of athleticism he’s lost during the process,” McDermott said. “In fact, it seems he’s come back stronger and with more authority in that he’s doing athletically. It’s a real credit to him and his work ethic that he’s back to the point he is.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.