Sophomore point guard Chris Hernandez spent a good deal of time Monday consulting with doctors and thinking through his two options for his broken foot. A fracture has developed in the fifth metatarsal, dating back to a time unknown to Chris or Stanford's doctors, which could be left to heal on its own, or could be repaired with the surgical insertion of a screw. The wait-and-heal approach has been pitched to this high energy point guard as a three month process, which would put his return to action deep into conference action and thus likely result in a redshirt year. That alone was distasteful enough to Hernandez that he decided Monday to opt for the surgery.
He says that the pain started developing back on October 18th, then increasing each day thereafter. Last Monday, the pain reached a point that the doctors decided for an x-ray, which revealed the fracture. Hernandez says that the pain was building and not surprised by the result: "It was just a matter of time before something had to give."
Though a good ten inches shorter, this Hernandez situation rings all too familiar with what Curtis Borchardt went through at Stanford the past few years. The center (now with the Utah Jazz) was also given a decision early at Stanford with a fracture in his foot whether to let it heal naturally or to have the surgery, and in reflection some believe that the decision late his freshman year not to have surgery led to the costly reinjury his sophomore year, after which he did opt for surgery. Hernandez gave his departed teammate a call this past Friday night, and the two talked for 90 minutes about the injuries and treatment options. Borchardt's experiences helped to make Monday's decision an easier one for Hernandez, on two fronts.
"He talked about the 'what ifs' you can have if you don't get the surgery done," reflects the sophomore point guard. "He also told me that it will be tough to sit and watch the team, but he learned a lot from that. He says he became a much better player watching the team with the coaches in game situations."
Hernandez will have the surgery today at Stanford Hospital at 1pm, performed by renowned Bay Area orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael Dillingham, who performed the foot surgery on Borchardt and who also is on staff with the San Francisco Forty-Niners. He will be assisted by Stanford team doctor Colin Eakin. After the surgery is complete, the doctors will have a more definite prognosis for the recovery time and long term outlook for the Stanford point guard, though he is told at this time that he will be out four-to-six weeks. Hernandez also has a high arch in his foot, and when he does return to action will be fitted with special orthotics to help support him. In the very short term, he will be off his feet completely for four or five days, which Hernandez says did immediately compute.
"I was talking to [strength and conditioning coach] John Murray about getting a pool workout the afternoon after the surgery," Hernandez says with a smile, "then people explained to me what it really means to have the surgery. I guess it just didn't sink it right away."
In other unfortunate injury news, freshman wing Dan Grunfeld has been out of action the last few days, including Saturday's scrimmage against Santa Clara, with a right hip flexor. Grunfeld says that he had felt pain in his hip and upper quad for the last several weeks, but the pain started to increase to a point recently where he asked Stanford basketball trainer JoHan Wang to take a look at him. The hip flexor was discovered on the 22nd of October, and they decided last week to hold Grunfeld out of action for a week to get him well. Grunfeld, who has been around the NBA for years with his father as GM for the Milwaukee Bucks, is frustrated to merely watch his teammates, but is encouraged that Wang is taking an aggressive approach to the treatment, including deep tissue massages to help loosen up the injured muscles. The freshman guard/forward expects to return to practice by the end of the week, as good as new.
Two other injuries developed in the Saturday scrimmage that held players out of Monday's practice. Josh Childress has a quad contusion that came when a Santa Clara player tried to back into him hard. Childress cannot even walk around without dragging his sore leg around. Like Grunfeld, the best he could do during Monday's practice was to ride the exercise bike while watching his teammates run through drills. The sophomore forward was able to play through the injury in the Saturday scrimmage while his muscle was still warm, and broke out in the second half to finish with some 38 points. He says he expects to be back in practice in just a few more days.
Justin Davis is the last of the walking wounded, having sprained his ankle in that same scrimmage when his foot landed on a Santa Clara player's foot, and rolled. The good news is that the sprain is low in his ankle, and should not keep him out for any extended period of time. The frustration to sit and watch Monday's practice is poignant for the redshirt junior forward, who has been saddled with various injuries throughout his three-plus years at Stanford. He has said through these fall practices that he feels in the best health he has ever known, but now this sets him back. Davis confidently proclaims that he will be back in practice as soon as today, though it is a wait-and-see for what weight he can put on that ankle... and it is far more important to not more seriously injure that ankle than to gain an extra practice or two. Through the early going, Davis has been the top performer of Stanford's post players in these first three-plus weeks of practice.
With the above four players unable to participate Monday, practice was a sad thing to watch. Stanford was left with just ten healthy bodies, and that included three walk-ons and just seven scholarship players. If senior manager Tunde Sobomehin was not asked to walk-on a couple weeks ago, the squad would have been unable to run any five-on-five drills yesterday. At its face, the addition of Olatunde to the roster would have boosted the numbers to an attractively round 15 once junior forward Teyo Johnson can join the squad post-football - that would allow three squads of five for rotating scrimmages and drills. But without Davis and Childress in particular, the practice Monday put two very small teams on the floor, with four erstwhile point guards, Nick Robinson having to play in the post, and Matt Lottich sliding over to the small forward. At one point, coach Eric Reveno had to take off his whistle and replace one of the guards to give a bigger look in practice. This was a sobering look at