Fields Looks For Quick Return

The statement was difficult to believe, especially since Levance Fields needed crutches to work his way to the interview table, but the look of determination on the face of Pitt's junior point guard erased any doubt when he said he believed he could return by Valentine's Day.

That is earlier than the initial prognosis after he fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot in a game Dec. 29, 2007 at Dayton. Levance Fields had surgery Dec. 31 and was supposed to be out 8-12 weeks. The player's new prognosis would have him back in about seven weeks, just in time to make the trip from Pittsburgh to Marquette Feb. 15.

"Everything's going good right now,'' Fields said. "The surgery went pretty quick, about an hour, tops, and it went good. ... I had an X-ray (Thursday), and the bone callous is forming where I fractured it. The doctors still haven't set a timetable (for his return), but if I continue to keep healing and recovering the way that I am I'll be back sooner than you know it.

"I actually just came from the pool ... doing a pool workout. They keep me on the bike now, so I've been doing some things. I feel good. Obviously, I wish I was still out there, but I'm taking baby steps and it's coming along. I want to come back a couple games before the season ends, maybe around Valentine's Day, a special day for me.''

Even if that timetable was a bit rushed, Fields quickly added that he had no doubt that he would return by the end of the regular season and be ready to lead the 15th-ranked Panthers (15-2, 3-1) into the Big East Tournament.

"Things are going pretty well right now, and as long as things keep going and I keep recovering the way that I am I should have a chance to be back a little earlier than the reports initially stated,'' Fields said. "I'm not going to rush it, but if it keeps going the way it's going I'll be back sooner than you know it.''

Fields returns to the doctor in about two weeks, but until then he's in a walking boot and uses crutches to walk. Fields said he really doesn't need them, but the doctors don't want him to put any undue pressure on the foot.

That didn't stop him from celebrating Pitt's big win against Georgetown with his teammates. Fields was the Panthers' biggest fan during the game, standing up and cheering them on from the outset, and he added some praise for another New York native, Ronald Ramon. The Pitt senior replaced Fields at point guard.

"It was exciting, and I was happy to see them win that game against Georgetown,'' Fields said. "I know it built more confidence in them to know that they can compete with the so-called best teams in the Conference, so it was good for them. Good for the coaches, and it was good for me just to be there.

"The Villanova game ... I know there were critics, but Ronald brushed them off and responded against Georgetown, just like he should. He's a senior. He's from New York. He's been through a lot, and he's used to things like that. We New York guys, we're used to things like that happening, and he just stepped up.''

Ironically, it was a misstep that caused Fields injury. While it was believed that he suffered the fracture during the landing after a lay-up, Fields said he actually either stepped on a cheerleader underneath the basket or one of their pompoms. His foot twisted, and the fracture occurred.

Pitt also has played without senior forward Mike Cook, who was injured against Duke Dec. 20 at Madison Square Garden. Cook's knee injury is much more serious than Fields, because without question he's out for the season. But Cook noted that his rehab has progressed quickly as well, and he could be ready to play next season if he receives a medical redshirt and sixth season.

"I really won't know anything about that until the end of the year, but ... if I'm blessed enough to get another year then I'll have to look into that to keep my options open,'' Cook said. "I talked to a lot of guys, and they said to take the rehab seriously. I just have to keep at it and don't gain too much weight.

"If I hang in there and do what they tell me, I'll be back sooner than they said. But I'm still out for the year, so there's no reason for me to push it right now.''

Cook has never been injured like this before, but Fields said he broke the tibia in his left leg when he was in eighth grade. So, this experience is nothing new.

"Sure, we're mad that we can't play, but life goes on,'' Fields said. "There's no reason to be grouchy about the situation, because that won't make it better.

"Hopefully, God has something planned for us. Maybe this was just something to slow us down. Maybe we were moving too fast or something like that, but we're doing well now mentally. ... And we're happy the team is doing well.''

Pitt's next game is Saturday at 4 p.m. at Cincinnati.

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