Suffering torn ACLs in both legs has changed the way DeJuan Blair plays basketball.
The Class of 2007 Pittsburgh power forward now plays with unrelenting hunger to prove himself and make himself one of the nation's elite players.
"Those injuries put me back big time," said Blair. "That's like failing a grade. I look at it like you're in the 12th grade and you go back to 10th. You miss so much when you can't play and you have to work back through things you've already accomplished.
"As far as working on mechanics, it's like being a new born baby again. You have to build yourself back up. It makes me work harder so I can get where I'm supposed to be. I think I can be top ten in the country."
Starting over has not be easy for the 6-7, 240-pound Schenley High School standout. With season-ending injuries his first two years of high school, he has been unable to prove himself on the summer AAU and camp circuit and he has only been able to play one high school season from start to end.
"It was one knee going into my ninth grade year and one in the tenth," said Blair. "The second time I thought, ‘here we go again, what's happening here?' I couldn't believe it. I didn't know why I deserved it. We were in the quarterfinal state game and it was just crazy.
"I missed 16 months in the last three seasons. A lot of people don't know that. I missed so much time because I had torn ACL's in both of my legs. It's just been crazy doing rehab and trying to get back to where I should be."
Blair is still getting himself back and working on improving his game, but he is already starting to draw attention from Division I schools even after his injuries. With an offer list too long to remember, Blair is sitting comfortably this summer instead of working too hard on the reconstructed knees.
"Oh man, there's a lot of offers," said Blair. "Pitt, Indiana, Kansas State, Miami (Fla.), Rutgers, Xavier are the big ones, but it's a lot of schools.
"I noticed more interest after the Pittsburgh Jam Fest. We won that one and one more. We've played in four total tourneys and won two. I played real good in both of them, I think."
Indiana is near the top of the running for the talents of Blair and Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson is working hard to bring the big man to Bloomington.
"Coach Sampson is recruiting me himself," said Bair. "I talked to him recently and I plan on visiting Indiana. I don't know when yet, but I'm going to make some trips this summer."
Blair will spend the summer working on the areas of his game he will need to have a successful senior year of high school basketball next season.
"I'm working on everything," said Blair. "I say everything about me can get better. I'm good right now, but I know I can get better on my shooting and my dribbling. I'm a great passer already and a powerful down low presence. I'm just trying to improve every part of my game – big time.
"The hardest part has been just getting back into shape, getting my wind back. Having the surgery and the patience to sit out was hard, but getting your body used to playing again is hard. You can't even rehab unless you're in shape."
Blair will spend his first summer since he started high school making the rounds to show off what skills he can bring to a Division I program. After having to watch from the sidelines the last two summers, Blair is more than ready to play.
"I'll playing AAU this summer and I'm going to the ABCD camp," said Blair. "I went last summer, but I couldn't play. I had to stand around and watch. I saw all the talent and I wanted to be out there. I'm ready to prove myself this summer."
Blair Back In A Big Way
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