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Provo • The devastating knee injury that Kyle Collinsworth suffered in the West Coast Conference basketball championship game last March robbed him of the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament, ruined many of his summer plans and has meant countless hours of rehabilitation for BYU's best playmaker in 2013-14.
Yet the rising junior has a surprising description of the ordeal four and a half months into what he hopes is a six-month recovery process.
"It has been a blessing in disguise," Collinsworth says of the anterior cruciate ligament tear that came against Gonzaga on March 15 in the West Coast Conference tournament championship game. A week later, Park City orthopedic surgeon Vernon Cooley, the same doctor who helped repair Tiger Woods' knee, fixed the tear that Collinsworth believes originally happened on Feb. 15 at Saint Mary's after a hard fall in the first half.
Speaking publicly for the first time since undergoing surgery on March 18 two days before the Cougars were whipped 87-68 by Oregon in their tournament opener without their second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Collinsworth said the rehabilitation process has enabled him to work on other parts of his game.
He's polished his free throw shooting, dribbling, ball-handling and 3-point shooting while he waits for the clearance to get back on the court again in pickup games and scrimmages. If he continues to progress, that OK should come at the end of August, perhaps the beginning of September.
"The little things have been my main focus," he said. "After I got hurt, all I could do was stand there and shoot with one hand forever. So it has just allowed me to work on other things [besides playing]. It has been a huge blessing, so far."
An appointment with his doctor on Monday will provide more information and likely bring more clearance regarding what he can do on the knee, but Collinsworth said earlier this week that he is ahead of schedule, by a couple of weeks.
"The knee is right where I want it to be," he said. "There's no pain, and there is no swelling. There haven't been any setbacks, which has been a huge key for me."
Collinsworth said he is already able to jump and cut, but "can't quite jump and explode quite as high as I want yet." While his teammates play pickup games almost every morning, he runs three miles every other day with strength and conditioning coach Bob Medina, does an abdomen workout, and watches the action on the court.
Then he goes through his shooting routine, goes to the weight room for rehab work, does an upper body lift, and then returns to the gym for more shooting.
"I am literally with [Medina] four or five hours a day," Collinsworth said. "He has really helped me through this."
The injury has also forced Collinsworth to change his diet.
He starts every day with a big breakfast at 6:30 a.m., then watches what he eats closely the rest of the day. He has even lost a few pounds, going from 213 when he was injured to around 210. He has managed to keep his body fat under 7 percent.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he swims at the Richards Building pool, and puts in some bike work, instead of running.
"I have to be smart with whatever they want me to do, whatever they say, but I think I will be [100 percent] by the time practice begins in October," he said.
Emotionally, he said he's light years away from those first few days after the injury, when all he could do was think about what he couldn't do.
"But after a couple days, I got all my emotions out, and I took a step back, and I just made a game plan of all I needed to do," said Collinsworth, who visits with sports psychologist Dr. Craig Manning at least once a week. "It has been a 'what can I do' mindset from there, the whole time, which has been huge, because 'the can't do list' is a big list."
A few weeks after the season ended, BYU coach Dave Rose acknowledged that not having Collinsworth's services for the NCAA Tournament was "an emotional train wreck" for BYU's other players, and not just because of Collinsworth's on-court abilities. Collinsworth was playing his best ball of the season, too, having scored 23 points against Loyola Marymount, 18 points against San Francisco, and 13 against Gonzaga in 24 minutes before the injury that occurred just moments after he dunked a lob pass from Matt Carlino.
Collinsworth said in the days after the injury that he briefly considered red-shirting this season because some people said it would be a 10-month recovery process. But Dr. Cooley assured him it would take just six months, and so far the doctor's assessment has been accurate.
"I feel like I will be ready for the opener," he said. "I really do."
Collinsworth's injury timeline
Feb. 15, 2014 • Takes a hard fall and suffers what doctors call a "right knee bruise" in first half of BYU's 60-57 win at Saint Mary's, but returns in second half and then starts the next game, against Gonzaga.
March 11, 2014 • Tears the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during 75-64 loss to Gonzaga in WCC championship game. Doctors later determine the ACL was first torn a month earlier at SMC.
March 18, 2014 • Orthopedic surgeon Vernon Cooley performs surgery on Collinsworth's knee, says full recovery will take about six months.
March 20, 2014 • Without their best playmaker, the Cougars lose 87-68 to Oregon in NCAA Tournament opener.