Colorado Mesa College Athletics

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — It was a goosebumps, misty eyes second.

Ethan Menzies checked right into a recreation for the Colorado Mesa males’s basketball group on Jan. 6 for the primary time in 1,028 days.

“It was truthfully a bit surreal,” mentioned Menzies, a first-team All-America ahead within the 2020-21 season who missed two full seasons and the primary two months of the present season after twice tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Public deal with announcer Tyler Fransen knew what the second meant, so he launched the opposite 4 Mavericks who have been checking in after which boomed: “and welcome again, Ethan Menzies!”

The group of almost 1,100 loudly cheered the 6-foot-7 junior from Half Moon Bay, California, a lot of them rising to their toes.

“Type of like an out-of-body expertise. I did not really feel like I used to be there,” Menzies mentioned a few days after his first, albeit transient, recreation motion since March 13, 2021. “It was a really cool second for me, although. I simply love how a lot my teammates actually assist me. I appeared behind me and each single one in all my teammates was standing up. That meant rather a lot to me as a result of all of them understand how excited I’m, however it makes me really feel actually good how excited they have been, you realize what I imply? And then you definately’ve bought some folks standing up within the crowd, too. That was a cool second.”

CMU coach Mike DeGeorge, who was standing on the sideline applauding his huge man, mentioned it was an emotional second.

“I bought emotional, to be trustworthy with you. It was emotional for me and my coronary heart was racing,” mentioned DeGeorge, who has seen firsthand what Menzies has battled via to play once more. “I am unable to think about what it was like for him.”

The journey again to the basketball courtroom began when Menzies, who was coming off a stellar sophomore season (2020-21) during which he averaged 15.9 factors and seven.8 rebounds a recreation, incomes first-team RMAC, West Area and NABC All-America honors, injured his left knee in follow in October of 2021. Exams confirmed he tore the ACL, requiring surgical procedure and him redshirting the 2021-22 season.

Months of rehab adopted, however he aced each check to return to the courtroom a 12 months later. Because the Mavericks ready for the 2022-23 season, Menzies was a full participant and was feeling like his outdated self. The Mavs traveled to Durango for a scrimmage towards rival Fort Lewis a few weeks earlier than their first recreation.

“I both went up for a rebound or to dam a shot, I am unable to keep in mind which, however I got here down and my leg hyperextended,” Menzies mentioned. “I heard a pop, identical sort of feeling as earlier than, however not as unhealthy. I sort of knew one thing was unsuitable.”

An MRI confirmed that feeling — Menzies had re-torn the repaired ligament. He went to a surgeon at The Steadman Clinic in Vail who focuses on ACL re-tears, who ordered X-rays and a CT scan of Menzies’ left leg.

These confirmed his tibia, the big bone within the shin, is slanted in such a means that it put extra stress on the ACL, so his knee could be susceptible to hyperextending, which ends up in tearing the ligament.

Earlier than the ACL might be repaired a second time, Menzies wanted surgical procedure to shave a number of the bone in his tibia to flatten it out and alleviate the stress on the knee. That passed off in December of 2022, and three months later, his ACL was repaired once more.

He mentioned of the three surgical procedures, the second was the worst due to the ache related to the bone therapeutic.

“I did the bone surgical procedure and healed from that and did my ACL and I used to be like, ‘That is frickin’ simple,’ as a result of I simply bought via that surgical procedure the place they have been chopping a chunk of bone out of me,” Menzies mentioned.

The rehab related to ACL surgical procedures generally is a lengthy, gradual, lonely course of as an athlete regains power within the leg and in addition builds up power within the quadriceps and hamstrings to assist forestall the hyperextention. While you undergo that course of twice in two years, it’s a must to marvel if one, you are able to do it once more, and two, if it is all price it.

“Going via this whole factor, if I had another teammates, I do not know if I might have carried out it,” Menzies mentioned. “The fellows which are with me, they’ve my again with something, and I am the identical with them. They embody me and so they at all times checked up on me if I wanted something after surgical procedure, they have been at all times there for me. The coaches have been the identical, however I might say my teammates have been most likely most necessary to me.”

He was additionally going via rehab greater than 1,000 miles from dwelling.

“My household has at all times been very supportive. I might at all times name my mother, name my dad, my siblings, no matter, and I’ve a really supportive girlfriend who was there for me each step of the best way,” he mentioned. “If I did not have these folks, I do not understand how nicely I might have been capable of proceed and look ahead to enjoying once more.”

The aim was to return to the courtroom in January, eight months after his second ACL surgical procedure. He began restricted practices in October and every week progressed till he was cleared for full follow in December.

When the calendar flipped, Menzies placed on his uniform and went via warmups with the group earlier than the CSU Pueblo recreation on Jan. 5 at Brownson Enviornment. He did not get into that recreation, however the subsequent evening, DeGeorge determined to play him a few minutes early towards New Mexico Highlands.

“He is not likely fairly prepared but, however we felt prefer it was higher, quite than to carry him out and have this factor construct up, let’s break the ice and get him on the market and let him begin competing a bit bit,” DeGeorge mentioned after the sport. “I assumed the primary time he went in, he did not actually compete sufficient, however the second time on the finish, I assumed it was extra him and I feel we’ll simply see him proceed to develop into who he’s over these subsequent couple of months. We’re excited to see that development.”

Menzies is fast to say he isn’t not near the participant he desires to be, however “clearly nearer than another time up to now 2½ years. It is simply so totally different between follow and video games, the depth, the main target to element, all the pieces’s so totally different. Taking part in tougher in follow, getting an increasing number of reps in video games will certainly assist me and produce me again to hopefully how I used to be enjoying.”

He is sporting a big brace on his left leg, barely hidden beneath the full-length leg tights he is at all times worn. His physician desires him braced for 2 years, a concession Menzies is keen to make to be on the ground once more.

He is nonetheless studying how his physique reacts to enjoying once more, however the work he does earlier than and after follow and video games, stretching, warmth and ice therapies, and persevering with to strengthen his legs within the weight room, helps him really feel like himself once more.

Not solely has Menzies needed to alter to enjoying once more, he is needed to alter to a wholly totally different type of play. The Mavericks have switched from their ball-screen offense, which performed to Menzies’ publish power, to an up-tempo type resulting in pictures early within the shot clock and lots of 3-pointers. Not precisely an offense for a post-up ahead coming off three knee surgical procedures.

“I talked to Coach (Kyle) Bossier, he is sort of our offensive coach, and I used to be like, ‘That is going to be onerous.’ I used to be used to ball screens every time I used to be in, so he mainly advised me, ‘Simply do what you do, simply in sort of a unique method.’ I will get caught at follow holding the ball or dribble nowhere and he’ll name it lifeless and be like, we do not do this any extra. Yeah, you are proper. I will go set a ball display if nothing’s taking place and he goes, we do not do this any extra.

“It is totally different for positive and I feel I am progressively adapting to it. I feel I can add various things to the offense that can assist, like if we get caught in a half-court factor, I can create benefits for different folks or see the ground a bit bit in a different way, hopefully.

“Mac (Riniker) and Trevor (Baskin) are so good at operating the ground and being gazelles on the market. Allow them to do this. I will do totally different stuff.”

Menzies is aware of working again into the rotation will attempt his endurance. He’d prefer to get again to the place he can play 20 minutes a recreation, but when that does not occur this season, no matter function he can play to assist the Mavericks to a different RMAC title and a deep run within the NCAA playoffs, he’ll gladly play.

“I wish to exit and I wish to show, sort of to myself and sort of to everybody, like, don’t fret, I am nonetheless me,” he mentioned. “I simply wish to attempt to assist the group win, however I (inform myself I) have not performed a recreation in virtually three years, you must chill out. It is going to take time.

“Endurance is an enormous factor on this complete course of, so it is annoying as a result of I have been so affected person and gone via all this and now I am again and I’ve to be extra affected person. It is a bit irritating in that side, however I utterly perceive. I get it.”

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