My story is no secret.
You may have heard about my physical and mental struggles, how I quit basketball, and am now launching a new chapter at SMU.
But there is more to my story. And I’m here to share it.
First and foremost, you need to understand that I probably shouldn’t even be here. The odds of a kid like me playing D1 basketball are slim to none. Coming from a single-parent household and going through my challenges on and off the court—people always looked past me.
It took a lot of hard work and perseverance only a few understand to get to where I am today.
But no one’s journey is a straight line. And mine was no different.
After I joined Baylor and played some great ball, everything took a turn when I jumped for a ball during the Iowa game in my sophomore year.
With all the adrenaline flowing through my body, I didn’t even fully understand what just happened. But it didn’t take long to sink in.
You see, injuries are part of the game, right? So, I’m not here to make a big deal out of the fact that I got hurt.
But you got to understand where I’m coming from. Basketball was my sanctuary. It was really the only place where I could be me.
When I was on the court, there were no problems, you know? Tough day at school? Missing your Mom because she’s at work? Feeling like an outsider? Within those four lines, it all went away.
The more I played basketball, the more I wanted to play basketball.
The more I put into the sport, the more it gave back to me.
It was my sanctuary, my home, and my first love.
And that’s what made my injury so difficult. It felt like my first love had finally broken my heart. And just like a big heartbreak, I didn’t see it coming.
When I hurt my knee during the Iowa game, I initially continued playing. They were a top 20 team, and I didn’t feel like subbing out, you know?
But after the game, I got an MRI as a precautionary measure and heard the worst news possible.
I had torn my meniscus.
What was most concerning was how the doctors were talking about it. I don’t remember their exact words, everything was happening so fast and so slow at the same time, but they kept emphasizing how this was a rare injury and that returning to play D1 basketball was essentially out of the question.
That’s all I needed to hear.
That was more than enough inspiration for me to prove these doctors wrong. It might be hard to come back, but I’m different, you know? That’s what I kept telling myself.
I rehabbed day and night and took every precaution to make sure I’d come back bigger and better than ever. I had surgery, sat out the rest of my sophomore year, and came back my junior year.
But I wasn’t the same.
My knee was constantly swelling up and super painful. It wouldn’t allow me to practice the way I wanted to, play the way I wanted to, or contribute the way I wanted to.
The injury hurt, and the rehab was painful, but nothing compares to feeling ready to play and your body not cooperating. I felt anger, frustration, even depression. I just wanted to go out there and play the game I love and help the team.
I was proud of my comeback and glad I proved those doctors wrong by returning, but I wasn’t myself anymore.
I probably hit the lowest point in my career after our game against Texas. My body once again made it impossible for me to perform at the level I used to. After the game, on our bus ride home, I opened up Twitter and read everyone’s comments about me.
“He doesn’t have it anymore.”
“He got so bad.”
The comments hurt! A lot! I knew I wasn’t the same player anymore who was once leading the country with a .737 field goal percentage, but man, I was out there giving it my all.
And I just couldn’t help it.
As things didn’t get better, it was time for me to retire. I simply couldn’t take the physical and emotional toll anymore.
So, that’s what I did. I retired. I stepped away for good. I stopped trying to get back to my former self and just wanted my body to heal and relax.
Little did I know what a blessing this was.
I started to feel better mentally, which encouraged me to look into alternative treatments for the swelling I was suffering from.
Eventually, I came across a stem cell treatment. So, I gave it a shot.
And man, let me tell you, it worked. My body finally began to feel like it was supposed to.
At first, it was tough trusting it again.
But with time and the right support group, I found myself back on the basketball court.
I had one year of eligibility left, and after talking with my former Baylor coaches and the staff at SMU, I decided SMU was where I wanted to play.
The coaching staff is excellent, the education is world-class, and I feel at home being back in Texas.
I’ve come a long way and can’t wait to represent the Mustangs to the best of my ability. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to do that.
I will give my all for SMU, and I hope I inspire others with my story to keep grinding, never give up, and find triumph in their tragedy.