On the Mend?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The NCAA tournament is no longer a new experience for a handful of the Ole Miss basketball roster.

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Five members of the Rebels’ regular playing rotation were a part of the 2012-13 team that came within one win of the Sweet 16.

And then there’s Terry Brutus.

Often forgotten is the contributions Brutus provided that season. He stepped in as the primary backup to veteran starters Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway after senior forward Aaron Jones and now-departed forward Demarco Cox went down to season-ending injuries.

In all, he averaged 9.1 minutes in 27 games, shooting 64 percent from the floor and pulling down 47 rebounds in 245 total minutes. His role was set to expand as a sophomore, but he tore the ACL in his left knee in preseason drills and missed the entire season.

He hasn’t seen the floor since.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” he said. “But being able to play in (the NCAA tournament) and experience it before, I know what it’s like. It’s fun when you’re winning.”

Ole Miss (21-12) is winning now, having advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament following a 94-90 win over BYU. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Brutus, however, has been reduced to the role of spectator.

Sure, he’s still very much active with the team, be it in practice or as a cheerleader at the end of the Ole Miss bench. But nothing quells his desire to get back out there.

“I’m just trying to be here to encourage everybody, ‘cause it’s also fun for me even though I’m not playing,” Brutus said.

He could be found Tuesday night celebrating with his teammates after an historic Ole Miss win. The Rebels erased a 17-point halftime deficit to knock off the Cougars, scoring an unprecedented 62 second-half points to do it.

A day later, there he was again, this time in the Ole Miss locker room in Jacksonville, Fla., readying for a shoot-around on the eve of the Rebels’ second-round matchup with Xavier Thursday at 3:10 p.m. CST. The game will be broadcast by TBS.

“I’m alright. It’s coming along,” he said. “I’ve been rehabbing a lot more lately. Unfortunately, I wasn’t back at the time I was expected to be back. But still grinding, still working towards it.”

The road back hit a detour in the fall. The ankle in the same leg as his injured knee was giving him fits – something he said he’s been dealing with since his freshman season. It took the torn ACL for the Ole Miss training staff to finally pinpoint the problem, all details Ole Miss withheld from the public.

“That was more of a problem than my knee,” Brutus said. “It’s on and off. I had basically recovered from my knee surgery, and then when I started my rehab, my ankle in my left leg was still bothering me.”

He’s been doing everything lately. Actually, he said he’s been doing everything for the last couple of months. He was cleared midway through the season, and there’s been no basketball activity ruled off limits.

Well, except for actually playing in games, something the redshirt sophomore is chomping at the bit to get back to.

“I’m still a part of the team. (The NCAA tournament) is really something I want the people who haven’t been here to experience,” he said. “I’ve experienced it before, and I’m going to experience it again next year and the year after that. It’s something we’ve got to work towards.”

And he plans to play a major role in the experience.

“If you came to practice, you’d see who they have to go against,” Brutus said.

“I’ve been killing them lately.”

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