Gasser's progress after ACL tear continues
MADISON—Almost a year since shredding the ligaments in his left knee, Wisconsin’s Josh Gasser is slogging through the debris—physical and psychological—that clutters the comeback trail of every athlete sidelined by a serious injury.
The redshirt junior guard, who missed all of last season, is working diligently to regain the form he showed as a sophomore when he was named to the all-Big Ten defensive team.
“The stage he is at now is that he is regaining that confidence,” Erik Helland, in his first season as UW strength and conditioning coach, said Friday during the team’s media day. “And confidence comes from experiencing contact, repetition of practice … getting sore, getting stiff, having pain and then getting the treatment and doing what he needs to do to recover.
“And then waking up the next day and realizing, ‘I’m OK.’”
Gasser, who averaged 7.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and shot 45 percent from three-point range as a sophomore in 2011-12, isn’t close to being all the way back.
“I expect a lot out of myself,” said Gasser, who has been through 10 practices. “Not being able to play last year I’ve been envisioning playing and coming back. And then when it actually comes you get a little disappointed.
“At the same time, each day I’m progressing.”
Senior guard Ben Brust sees the changes.
“I see it in his face every day, the confidence level,” Brust said.
Gasser tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), damaged the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) and also tore the meniscus in his left knee on Oct. 27, days after being named UW’s No. 1 point guard.
When he talked in March about recovery process, his goal was to be able to participate in individual and drill work during the summer and then begin full-contact work in October.
Gasser hit both marks and was able to play in four of the team’s five August exhibition games in Canada.
“I wasn’t out there trying to do too much,” Gasser said. “I was just trying to get up and down the floor and just see how I could handle things and it went well.
“I found out I could still play. My knee is healthy. Making cuts, it’s not going to give out or anything like that. It was good to give me some confidence.”
Gasser acknowledged, however, the first few practices were revealing and frustrating.
“I kind of feel like a freshman all over again,” he said. “The game seems so much faster.
“If I would drive to the hoop, I would think what leg I was planting off and going up. Usually through this whole process once I did something for the first time I usually got over the hump. And then I was good.”
Standard operating procedure, according to Helland.
“I imagine there will be a little bit of trepidation going into the first game,” said Helland, a native of Edgerton who came to UW after working with the Chicago Bulls since 1988. “Again, he is in that learning curve, and I suspect there is going to be a fairly good chunk of the season where I think that will happen.”
The 2013-14 opener is set for Nov. 8. Gasser was set to play point guard last season until he suffered the injury. That allowed Traevon Jackson and George Marshall to get valuable experience at the position.
Gasser, listed at 6 foot 3 and 190 pounds, has gotten work at both guard spots and both forward spots in practice.
“I’d like to be completely 100 percent, playing at my peak,” he said. “But that may be a little unrealistic coming back from this injury.
“Each day, I’m getting better and by the time the season comes I’m hoping to be exactly where I was. And I think I will be.”