Feb. 2, 2011

By Jeff White (jwhite@virginia.edu)

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Patience is not his strong suit, Mike Scott admits. So for UVa’s best basketball player, four months might as well be an eternity.

But Scott is determined to remain upbeat as he recovers from an operation on his left ankle.

“There’s always something bright in the future,” he said Tuesday evening in the training room at John Paul Jones Arena. “Everything happens for a reason.”

When Virginia (2-5, 11-10) takes on ACC rival Clemson (4-3, 15-6) on Wednesday night at JPJ, Scott will be in street clothes, cheering on his teammates. He hasn’t played since Dec. 22, when he had 12 points and 8 rebounds in a loss to Seattle.

That game came six days after Scott had arthroscopic surgery to remove loose pieces of cartilage in his left ankle. The 6-8, 242-pound senior from Chesapeake had no problems in the days that immediately followed the operation, but when Scott returned from holiday break, his ankle locked up on him during a Dec. 27 practice.

An MRI revealed more damage, and Scott, after conferring with his family, his coaches and doctors, decided that an in-season operation was his best option. He could have tried to complete the season, “but at the rate my ankle kept locking, it would have been impossible to finish,” Scott said Tuesday.

Virginia will play at least 31 games this season. Because Scott appeared in only 10 games, UVa is confident he will meet NCAA requirements for a hardship waiver that would allow him to return as a fifth-year senior next season.

Scott established himself as an all-ACC candidate before his season ended prematurely. His averages of 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds still lead the team.

Dr. Robert Anderson operated on Scott’s ankle Sunday in Charlotte, N.C. Anderson, whose other patients have included UVa coach Tony Bennett, Sammy Zeglinski and Mamadi Diane, removed impinging bone spurs and cleaned up more cartilage in the ankle.

Anderson said the ankle is structurally sound, Bennett told reporters Monday, and the latest operation points Scott “in a really nice direction health-wise for his future.”

If his rehabilitation goes as scheduled, Scott could be cleared for full participation around June 1.

“That’s actually almost the ideal time,” said Mike Curtis, Virginia’s strength-and-conditioning coach for men’s basketball.

“The beginning of June is when we start that summer [strength-and-conditioning] session. That’s when most of the kids would have been coming back anyway. So if everything’s on time, he’ll still get the full offseason program during the summer.”

Scott suffered a high-ankle sprain during the summer before his first year at UVa, an injury that sidelined him for several months. Until this season, though, he did not know much about anatomy.

“Now I completely know my whole ankle, ligaments and bones and cartilage and all that stuff,” Scott said, shaking his head.

His ankle was heavily wrapped Tuesday, covered by a bandage and what Scott said was similar to a soft cast. He’s on crutches and plans to use UVa’s DART service for transportation to his classes until he’s able to move better.

After about two weeks, Scott said, “I’ll upgrade to a boot and lose the crutches. Then I’ve got to keep the boot for another two weeks.”

About a month after the surgery, Scott said, he should be able to wear a shoe on his left foot.

Curtis will be a key figure in Scott’s rehab, as will Ethan Saliba, UVa’s head athletic trainer. Randy Bird, Virginia’s director of sports nutrition, has a role, too.

“Our first order of business is for me to kind of set him up with Randy, to set him up on a meal plan that’s going to reflect his current level of activity,” Curtis said. “Because the last thing I want, once he gets back to a place where he can be on both feet, is to be dealing with having to do weight loss because he’s gained weight.

“And then gradually what I’ll do is slowly integrate him into weight-bearing stuff, as Ethan says we can. But that’s going to be a long period of time, so we’ll continue to do some of the things that we’ve done up until this point, in terms of just working his upper body, and then integrating some things in that are a little bit more targeted toward calorie expenditure, with maybe some med-ball stuff or the upper-body ergometer that we have.”

Many times last month, Scott went through intense workouts on an exercise bike positioned near the court on which his teammates were practicing at JPJ.

“Now that he’s had surgery, we’re not going to be able to do those type of things,” Curtis said. “The bike is not going to be an option. The only thing is going to be that upper-body ergometer. That’s going to be the case for quite a while, because it’s going to be imperative that that foot is immobilized.

“That’s where the diet modification comes into play the most, just because Mike in the past has had not the most ideal eating habits. So now we’re just going to have to make sure we strictly adhere to a meal plan that reflects the amount of calories he’s burning on a daily basis.”

As Scott’s activity level increases, Curtis said, some “of the things that we’ll be doing will be more focused on restoring the mobility in his ankle, teaching him how to run a little bit more efficiently and cut a little bit more efficiently.”

Scott and Saliba flew to Charlotte on Friday for a meeting with Anderson. On Saturday they were in Winston-Salem, where Scott watched Virginia squander a 10-point second-half lead and lose 76-71 to Wake Forest.

The loss was the fifth in sixth games for the Cavaliers, who clearly miss Scott’s on-court contributions. During one stretch this season, he became the first UVa player since Ralph Sampson in 1983 to post five straight double-doubles.

“Watching is just killing me,” said Scott, a team captain. “I just try to help as much as I can from the sideline.”

In 2009-10, the Wahoos closed the regular season with nine consecutive losses.

“We don’t want a repeat from last year,” sophomore point guard Jontel Evans said Saturday at Wake, “but the attitude of the team is way different from last year. Guys are hungry, we’re staying together, we’re positive. I feel like if we keep knocking, we’re going to get a win.”

This will be Clemson’s first game at JPJ since Feb. 15, 2009. The ‘Hoos upset the No. 12 Tigers 85-81 in overtime that night.

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