Not much has gone right for the Ohio State men’s basketball team this year, making it all the more difficult for sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop as he goes through rehabilitation after surgery on his left shin.
The Buckeyes lost arguably their most dynamic player following a 76-75 loss to Purdue on Jan. 5. Bates-Diop sat out that game and coach Thad Matta informed the media in the postgame press conference that the forward would redshirt and be out for the year. Since that game, Bates-Diop has had surgery and his recovery is ahead of schedule.
But the injury could have been devastating.
“It was getting close to what could’ve been a compound fracture, which — Kevin Ware, Paul George — that’s what would’ve happened,” Bates-Diop said. “Don’t know when it would’ve happened, but if I would’ve kept playing, it was a possibility. It was already decided I wasn’t playing, but when they said that, there was no chance I was coming back.”
The 6-foot-7 forward from Normal, Illinois, had been dealing with the injury since the summer when another player made hard contact with his shin. He came back and still wasn’t 100 percent, so the team mandated that he receive X-rays.
“(The coaches) could tell something was wrong,” Bates-Diop said. “I wasn’t playing like myself. I was playing at a high level in the summer, until I did something wrong.”
Bates-Diop then suffered a right ankle injury against Providence on Nov. 11. He missed five games with that injury, but it wasn’t until December that his shin began bothering him again. Bates-Diop recalled stopping abruptly versus Youngstown State on Dec. 20 when he felt a pain shoot through his leg. From then on, his injury didn’t progress any and he was shut down for the season.
Through the season Bates-Diop said he was near full health. He admitted on Thursday that wasn’t the case.
“I told you guys that I was close to being 100 percent. I was not,” he said. “I lied. I was never 100 percent. I was never close.”
Bates-Diop said that he had a rod placed in his left leg from just below the kneecap down to just above the ankle. He has two screws in his leg, one in each spot to anchor the rod. He said that the one near his ankle will likely be taken out. He was supposed to be on crutches for two to three weeks but was only on them for one week.
As far as conditioning and lifting is concerned, Bates-Diop is working on upper-body strength, so by the time summer rolls around he can jump into skill drills.
On top of all that, two weeks ago, Bates-Diop’s brother collapsed during practice and was transported to the hospital, causing the Buckeye to head home. His brother was discharged from the hospital days later and Bates-Diop said his brother returned to school Thursday for the first time.
While that was going on, OSU has fallen to 15-13 and 5-10 in the Big Ten before it plays No. 16 Wisconsin on Thursday night. Bates-Diop said one of the most difficult aspects of his injury is knowing he can’t contribute to a team who’s struggling mightily.
“It’s been very hard,” he said. “Just dealing with everything I’ve been personally through and then the team. It’s been a rough few months … since New Years.”
Bates-Diop was averaging 9.7 points and 5.2 rebounds before the injury. He said that he has taken a new role on the sidelines and has a new perspective outside the game that other players don’t have — something he’s hoping to carry over to next year.
“I think mental preparation toward the game. I was playing at a high level. I can get that back,” he said. “But looking from the outside in, now I can change my mentality from the game. All that stuff I can teach these guys, especially the younger guys on what to do and what not to do.”