Junior Zach Bohannon (Marion, Iowa) will be a season-long guest contributor for CBSSports.com. Here is his first blog entry.
By Zach Bohannon
There are seven letters, two words, and one phrase that no athlete, but more specifically, no basketball player, ever wants to hear over his entire career: Torn ACL.
It can bring that player to immediate tears. But as I found out on Saturday, it can bring many of his teammates to tears as well. This is my story from the perspective of a teammate who witnessed the knee of Josh Gasser, the starting point guard for the Wisconsin Badgers, buckle right before his eyes.
The scariest part of the whole play was how routine and seemingly innocent it really was. We were scrimmaging during a typical Saturday morning practice. Josh was on a fast break and planted his left foot. His knee gave out. It was that simple.
Athletes hear all the time, "Play every play like it's your last," but this was one of the moments that made me take a step back and understand what that statement truly meant. I was less than 10 feet behind him trailing the play. I heard the piercing scream come out of his mouth as he crumbled to the ground. I tried to keep him calm and said, "You're fine, take some deep breaths." However, Josh knew, and shot back sharply, "No, I'm not fine!"
Everyone in the gym fell quiet. Nothing could be said. We all saw our athletic trainer and team doctor immediately test out his left knee on the court. We all prayed for the best, though we knew we had no choice but to expect the worst.
As we saw Josh get helped off the floor, none of it seemed real. Josh was the last person you expected this to happen to. Josh seemingly had no kryptonite; he was indestructible to us. Our team tried to put the shock of what we had just seen behind us. After about an hour of more practicing, Coach [Bo] Ryan called us in and told us before we did our final shooting drill we would all have a chance to see Josh before he left for the hospital. As we filed in one by one to the training room, each one of us had a moment to spend with Josh. Many of us hardly said a word; it was a quick good luck with a handshake or a hug for most. It was a very somber moment because we all knew the magnitude of the earthquake that had just shaken our team.
As practice ended and my teammates went their separate ways, we all had a day of grieving for Josh. Not because of the basketball player he is, but more importantly, for who he is as a person and what he represents for our program and for the state of Wisconsin. He truly is, and always will be, the face of our program. I personally was sick to my stomach the rest of the day because Josh is the last kid you would ever want something so devastating to happen to. However, as Josh tweeted (@JPGasser21) on that night, "Wow thanks for the support everyone. Really tough time but I will be okay.. Our team won't skip a beat, trust me. #OnWisconsin."
Throughout the mystery of life, you can think all you want about what could have, should have, or would have been? However, the greatest success stories in sports are of teams and individuals who use adversity to their advantage and come roaring back unified like never before.
Our team started the process of unification on Sunday.
Of course we were all upset and it was hard to imagine playing without Josh, but at that moment, we all realized the past is now behind us and we, as a team, had no choice but to play the ball where it lies. I will be the first to admit that our ball is in the deep rough, but all it takes is one shot to knock us back onto the green. As long as we can keep this hole under control and the damage to a minimum, we will be rewarded on the next drive with the addition of Mike Bruesewitz. Mike, who most fans recall him as "carrot top," was another player lost a few weeks ago when he suffered a seven-inch laceration during practice. At the time of his injury, our team had no idea the severity of it. We are fortunate enough to know that he will be back on the floor battling with us soon.
Our success on the court as a team will not be dictated by a few minor setbacks this season. Josh, the floor general, might be out for the year, but Josh, the leader, will be with us every step of the way on our journey toward success. And I promise you, we will have success.
For all Badger fans out there, do not let your support falter or downgrade the season due to a couple of injuries. As Josh himself said, he will be "OK." He will be back next year, stronger than ever. But the moment is now for Wisconsin basketball. There are five seniors in our locker room who must be sent out the right way.
Yes, we have had a few bumps in the road thus far that have damaged us physically. But the heart and soul of our team will not be touched, regardless of whatever adversity that is thrown our way. Our team has no choice but to continue to get better and stronger each day as one. Our focus is on the present, as shall everyone else's be in their own lives. On, Wisconsin!