BOULDER – On Monday, Spencer Dinwiddie embarked on the road back. Right now he can’t tell me, you, even himself, back to what, back to where. Back is what matters.
Here’s the only bedrock certainty for the University of Colorado’s gifted junior point guard: After the appropriate waiting period following Monday’s surgery to repair his injured left knee, he will attack rehabilitation like nothing that’s ever confronted him.
“The low range (of recovery) is six months, the high range is eight,” Dinwiddie told me two nights before surgery was performed by Dr. Armando Vidal in Lone Tree. “I see no reason why I can’t do it in six. Climbing that mental hurdle is a big thing, but that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to baby it. I’m looking at it as a time to build up my body and become a more complete athlete.”
Also undergoing surgery Monday to repair his left knee was CU freshman Tre’Shaun Fletcher, who – like Dinwiddie – was injured in the Buffs’ 71-54 loss at Washington on Sunday, Jan. 12. Both went down within a minute of one another before intermission.
Dinwiddie – CU’s leader in scoring, assists, steals and a variety of intangibles not found on the stat sheet – was injured with 2:51 remaining in the first half. He crumpled untouched near the foul line after dribbling the ball from the other end of the court.
Next-day-photographs in local newspapers showed a wide-eyed, obviously shocked Dinwiddie in a heap in the lane, reaching for his left knee. “When it happened, I didn’t know what it was – at least not the extent of it,” he said. “I got back to the training room and they brought one of the Washing (team) doctors in. He did a range of motion tests on my left leg and then told me what he thought it was. Then it hit me . . . then I knew it was serious.”
Still, Dinwiddie, whose most severe previous injury had been a broken finger on his left hand while at Taft High School in Woodland Hills, Calif., couldn’t immediately imagine the severity and what it meant for the rest of the 2013-14 season and beyond.
“I didn’t think it was season-ending . . . it just didn’t feel like that,” he said. “I knew my knee cap shifted over but I didn’t know what that meant. I knew immediately I wouldn’t play the rest of that game, but I was thinking (of missing) three weeks, four weeks – not six months. Nothing like that.”
The real pain, he said, “didn’t hit until a couple of days after. The first two nights I would go to sleep and feel like I was going to get up and be able to practice that day. Then after a couple of days, I got out of bed and it hit me . . . it never really hurt until late. It was all so foreign to me. There was never the pain of a sudden pop, just later when the swelling started.”
After the Buffs’ return to Boulder and coach Tad Boyle’s announcement that Dinwiddie would be lost for the season, what Dinwiddie termed “an outpouring of love” began. Emails and tweets from several Pac-12 Conference coaches, including Oregon’s Dana Altman and Arizona’s Sean Miller, and players such as UCLA’s Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams began arriving.
“You understand fans will like you after you’ve been one of the better players on a team for a couple of years,” Dinwiddie said. “But at the same time, to see the outpouring from opponents has been one of the biggest parts of all this. It was great . . . just a ton of love and support,” And what made it so great was that none of them had to do that.
“I expected it from my teammates right after the fact, and their outpouring has been terrific. But the most honoring thing to me has been the other people contacting me, people you respect a lot who didn’t have to get in touch with you but took the time to do it. But the love from fans, it’s made me feel really happy. And then there was this little kid . . .”
His name was Garrett Colehour – and he might have started a lifelong friendship.
Dinwiddie was on the bench, positioned near the coaching staff to fill what Boyle termed “a volunteer student assistant’s role,” for both of CU’s home games last week – UCLA on Thursday night, Southern California on Saturday. At the conclusion of the UCLA game, he recalled, “This little kid came up to me and handed me a ‘get well’ card.”
Dinwiddie opened it and out fell a silicon bracelet, woven with black and gold links. Dinwiddie planned to wear it during Monday’s surgery.
Also contacting Dinwiddie through a mutual friend was former Purdue basketball star Robbie Hummel, a second-round pick (58th overall) in the 2012 NBA Draft. Hummel, a 6-8 forward, suffered two knee injuries – both requiring surgery – and other physical setbacks at Purdue. But Hummel rehabbed, persevered and returned for a fifth year with the Boilermakers. He’s now on the roster of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“Interesting story . . . similar situation,” Dinwiddie said Hummel’s travails, noting that valuable insight and perspective was relayed. He’s getting equally valuable information – and this with far more feeling – from his parents, Malcolm and Stephanie. Both came to Colorado following his injury.
Until his rehab work begins in earnest, his progress is charted and a determination can be made on his six-month timetable, Dinwiddie won’t know what the future holds. “In July, I hope to be getting ready to play basketball,” he said. “Where – the Lord only knows.”
If pre-draft NBA evaluations he receives appear promising, “I might take my chances,” he said. But, he adds, given the doubt that knee injuries can create until an injured player erases it, “I just don’t know.”
Yes, he said, there is a chance he will return to CU, but that decision would be based on the success of his rehab, his evaluation by the NBA and all other related factors. Dinwiddie said he and his father have conferred in the past on “life decisions,” arrived at sound conclusions and will collaborate closely on this one.
“You have to think of the future,” Dinwiddie said. “But I’m not going to make a leap of faith, not a rash decision . . . if we weigh everything and it’s not enough (to enter the NBA Draft), then No. 25 will be playing again at the Events Center.”
The early entry eligibility deadline for the 2014 NBA Draft is April 27 – about three months short of his six-month rehab timeline. Until then, Buffs fans will wait, Spencer Dinwiddie will work. His goals: a sound left knee and a solid decision on his future.