Frustration Gone

After an excruciatingly long ordeal with stress fractures in his foot last season, Demarco Cox is healthy and ready to take over the paint for the Rebel men's basketball team.

Cox, all 6-8, 275 sculpted pounds of him, with a full, thick beard, can now talk about it with a smile on his face, but it wasn't that way for most of 2012 and into 2013.

The injury. Oh, the injury.

Cox, a junior forward, went through nearly a year of athletic hell last season due to one of the most frustrating, debilitating, uncertain injuries known to sports – the dreaded stress fracture of the foot.

Frustrating because they take what seems like an eternity to heal. Debilitating because without your feet, you ain't going nowhere. Uncertain because too many times the first surgery to repair a stress fracture doesn't seem to solve the problem and sometimes even a second doesn't "take."

You look at Cox and think, "how can something as tiny as a stress fracture sideline this muscular, healthy, conditioned athlete?" It kind of defies logic.

But it was real and a major setback to Cox's career.

He doesn't mind going into detail about his lengthy ordeal.

Demarco Cox
USA TODAY images

"At the beginning of the year, around October, my foot started hurting," he began. "It hurt more each day, but I was getting treatment on it and didn't think a lot about it. The problem was it wasn't getting any better, it was getting worse. We went to the IPF and got an x-ray. The x-ray didn't show anything, but they put me in a walking boot anyway. I got another x-ray and it was determined I had a stress fracture. A surgery was scheduled."

Doctors put a screw in the fifth metatarsal bone of his foot and his thought process was that all would be well after a couple of weeks of rest after the operation.

"I started back playing in late November and felt pretty good about it. I went to the tournament in Hawaii and started feeling some pain in the foot again," he explains. "I didn't think much about it. I thought it would go away, and I'd fight through it, but the second game there I felt more pain during warmups. Coach asked me if I could go and put me in during the first half. I went to defend a guy and took one step when I felt a pop. I thought it was broken all the way through. It was very painful."

Cox hopped off the court. An examination after the game proved he had another stress fracture in another spot. More time in a boot and on crutches.

"By then, A.J. (Aaron Jones) had torn his ACL and I was going to try to come back again. I was conditioning and felt the same pop in the foot again," he continued. "I was in a cast for a total of five weeks and it healed enough for me to walk around on it, but I couldn't play on it. We went to Bob Anderson, the foot specialist in Charlotte, NC. He told me it was not going to heal without another surgery, but if I could stand the pain to go ahead and play on it. I couldn't play on it.

"I just went ahead and had the second surgery. He had to take the old screw out, drill a new hole in the fifth metatarsal, put a new screw in and graft a bone out of my hip and put that in the second spot that was cracked."

After the second surgery, more time off the foot, more rehab, more of everything that goes along with surgery.

"I had to stay off the foot and on crutches for eight more weeks and then two more weeks in a boot," Cox grimaced while thinking about it.

Demarco Cox
USA TODAY images

Then, there was overcoming the mental aspect of coming back.

"My first time in the gym in tennis shoes, my foot just didn't feel right," said Cox. "I felt like I was off of my foot for a full year. When I came back, we took the comeback process very slowly. If I was supposed to do something for a week, we'd do it for two weeks, just to make sure. Each step of the way, literally, was slow and careful. Man, it was just so long and so frustrating watching my teammates playing and practicing and not knowing when I would be back full speed. I know injuries happen, but mine seemed so simple and yet so devastating in terms of not being able to do anything."

Finally, that whole ordeal is behind him.

"My only problem was that I let my weight get back up around 300 pounds. After I got cleared, I got it off pretty quickly. I'm now in pretty good shape and have my weight down to where I want it. I feel comfortable out there running around now," Cox said.

Now, Cox is focused on being part of the team's solution of replacing C Reginald Buckner and F Murphy Holloway off last year's team. It's a challenge he looks forward to.

"I played against them in practice ever since I have been here, so I learned a lot," Cox assesses. "I feel like I can step in and fill his shoes partly because of what I learned from him. It's my time to step up. I feel I can hold Reggie's position down."

Cox's game is different from Reggie's. Buckner was more finesse while Cox is more brute force.

"If you come in the lane, you are going to know I'm in there," he chuckled. "I'm concentrating mostly on my defense and rebounding, but I believe I can score on the offensive end. I'm getting the rust off now and am getting my confidence back. I think my game will be in good shape by the time the season starts.

"I've been working hard on my rebounding, mostly positioning. I'm working on being more aware of where I am on the court and where shots will come off the iron. Rebounding just isn't jumping. It's positioning. It's a learned skill."

Cox is also fired up about freshmen Sebastian Saiz and Dwight Coleby, the two young bigs the Rebs will count on this season.

"They are very aggressive. They play really hard. They come at you and don't back down. Sometimes they get the best of us (him and Aaron Jones) and sometimes we get the best of them," he stated. "It's making all of us better. They make us work hard every practice. I think we will have a good rotation in the paint and I think we have enough guards to make us explosive in the frontcourt as well."

Cox believes the Rebels can duplicate and better last year's success.

"We practice every day with one thing in mind – repeating our SEC Tournament title and going further than we did last year in the NCAAs," he closed. "That's our goal and we aren't backing off it."

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