It's As Easy As 1-2-3 For Elston

After off-season knee surgery, Derek Elston is back on the floor and is off to a dominating start to the season for Tipton's 5-0 basketball team. Elston talks about his knee, his fast start, and his step-by-step process of getting back to his old self...

Bloomington – A summer spent in the weight room had Tipton (Ind.) senior Derek Elston feeling a little self-conscious.

Thanks to a spring knee injury that required surgery and ended his AAU season, the IU-bound recruit found himself replacing his time on the court with hours in the weight room. The end result was a "reshaping" of his upper body according to IU Coach Tom Crean, but it also left Elston feeling a little odd when he passed by a mirror.

"My upper body was a lot stronger than my legs, and I felt I was looking a little goofy," Elston said.

But that was then, and this is now. Elston's lower body has been catching up ever since he was first cleared to return to the court in September. He's been back to full strength ever since Tipton's season started in November, and he's playing at 223 pounds after being listed at 205 as a junior. He's used that added weight to help him dominate his foes early on, averaging 22.4 points and 11.8 rebounds to lead to Tipton to a 5-0 start and the a No. 2 statewide ranking in the latest Class 2A poll.

Elston said he was a little nervous about the knee when he first played against another team in Tipton's pre-season scrimmage, but he survived that test and the knee hasn't bothered him since. Elston opened the regular season with a 16-point, 13-rebound effort in an 83-44 win over Tri-Central, and he also has a 30-point, 14-rebound, five-steal effort to his credit in a 43-point win over Delphi.

"The knee isn't a bother at all," Elston said. "It's been a perfect season so far. Things can't be any better."

While Elston has been fully cleared medically since the season started, Tipton's coaching staff didn't want him to push it too hard too early. They encouraged him to focus on "step one" plays, and wait a while before adding more step two and step three plays.

Elston said the Tipton staff rates the degree of difficulty of his plays, with "step one" plays being basic, fundamental moves. "Step two" plays include spin moves and up-and-under plays, while "step threes" include crossovers as well as a sequence of moves put together to create a scoring opportunity. He's now back to where he's adding more step twos and step threes back to his game, something he admits he enjoys.

"The step 2s and step 3s are who I used to be all the time, so now that I'm back doing them, it puts a smile on my face," Elston said. "But the coaches still tell me to watch it."

Elston's play is also putting a collective smile on the face of the IU coaching staff. Elston said Crean has been particularly happy to see the rebounding totals that he's been putting up as well as the fact that he's been knocking down 3-pointers at a steady clip as well.

"Coach wanted me to work on that (3-point shot), so he's been reading that I've added that to my game," Elston said.

The first player to commit to IU for the '09 class, Elston is now one member of a six-player class that was ranked No. 7 nationally by Scout.com. It's a group that figures to come in immediately next fall and play a major role in getting the IU program back to being competitive on a national level.

While Elston has goals of making a run at a state title this season and also in being in contention for Indiana Mr. Basketball honors, he's already excited about getting to Bloomington and playing a big role in turning IU's fortunes around.

"It brings a smile to my face about maybe getting a chance to play right away," Elston said. "I don't want to sound cocky, but there seems to be a good chance to do that right away. That's why I'm in weight room and shooting. I want there to be a spot for me right away. Coach says there will and Coach (Tim) Buckley says there will, but I want to make sure I come down there and do it. That's what I wanted when I first picked a school."


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