Kennedy: “Stef is going to bounce back.”

Stefan Moody had an eventful weekend, to say the least.

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Everything was fine as late as Thursday. His game was as good as ever, the first team All-SEC selection showing no signs of trouble in his regular basketball activities. Shot after shot. Dunk after dunk. Nothing.

However, he couldn’t shake some swelling and lingering discomfort in his left leg. He’d been kicked inadvertently in the shin in a pick-up game. Ole Miss trainer Clarke Holter, who always takes a pragmatic approach, thought it best to have the senior Ole Miss guard scanned. If anything, the training staff figured, check him out to make sure there was nothing there.

Well, there was something there. A stress fracture. Surgery Saturday.

As Ole Miss announced this week Moody, who averaged 16.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists last season, is out 2-3 months. A rod was inserted into his shin, and Rebel head coach Andy Kennedy said the rehabilitation process will take anywhere from eight to 12 weeks depending on how Moody responds.

“I hate it for Stef. Honestly, he had taken his game to another level from a maturity, from an outlook, from an approach standpoint,” Kennedy said. “He was giving us the leadership we really need out of your best player. I hate it for him. I hate the setback. It’s really freakish how it happened. He had no symptoms, he had no pain.”

Doctors determined the kick didn’t cause the fracture. No chance. The bone is too strong.

No, the fracture had been developing for who knows how long. Moody very likely played with it much of last season, when he appeared in all 34 games with 33 starts and won the Howell Trophy as the best men’s college basketball player in Mississippi. He led the team and ranked fourth in the SEC in scoring.

“Our surgeons who did the surgery couldn’t believe that he didn’t have any pain, that it wasn’t affecting his play because of the size and location of the fracture,” Kennedy said. “They took the approach that we felt was in Stef's best interest long term.

“He’s a physical freak of nature. I don’t really have any concern, nor do the doctors, with him coming back and being full speed. All this happened (quickly). We didn’t even think it was a serious injury; they found the fracture on Friday and they did the surgery on Saturday. It happened very, very quickly. It was hard for him to digest what had just transpired. Here he is on Thursday dunking over everybody, and on Saturday they’re saying he has a fracture and they’ve got to put a pin in his leg. The timing of it, if there is any upside, was good in that he’s got time to rest, he’s got time for this to heal. It should not affect anything as we start fall camp when the fall semester starts at the end of August.”

The 5-foot-10 Moody was one of the most dynamic players in the SEC last season, leading the Rebels to their second NCAA tournament appearance in the last three seasons, including a thrilling come-from-behind win over BYU in the first round.

Also memorable was Ole Miss nearly pulling off a monumental upset over then-No. 1 and undefeated Kentucky in Rupp Arena in January. The Rebels took the Wildcats to overtime before losing by three. Moody scored 25 points, but leg cramps forced him to miss almost all of the extra period.

As a preventative measure, Ole Miss monitored his cramping issue the rest of the year.

“His body-fat percentage was around three percent, so he didn’t retain water. We had to go out of our way throughout the course of the year to make sure he was hydrated enough on game day so when adrenaline kicks in and he’s playing at such a high level he did not dehydrate like he did in the UK game when he wasn’t able to finish the game when we got to overtime,” Kennedy said.

“(The doctors) think his muscles were so strong and he’s such a compact guy that his muscles were compensating for that fracture, which is really amazing. I think it speaks to the fact that he’s going to bounce back fine.”

Kennedy asked Moody on Monday, on a scale from one to 10, with 10 being unbearable, what level of pain was he dealing with? Moody answered about a four or five, just two days removed from the operation.

Moody will be non-weight-bearing for two weeks to let the bone heal from the trauma of the surgery, and then he’ll begin the rehabilitation process in earnest.

“It’s the same injury M.J. Rhett had. It’s the reason M.J. was able to come and play the fifth year for us later year, and he was a vital part of our team’s success,” Kennedy said. “M.J. had a rod put in his leg; M.J. had the whole thing. M.J. told (Stef) he thought he came back stronger and never had any ill effects of that injury.

“I feel pretty confident Stef is going to bounce back.”

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