Redshirt senior forward William Becker and junior guard Jezza McKenzie have been out and in recovery since the start of the 2023-24 men’s basketball season due to injuries.
Becker injured his shoulder during preseason; he said he kept playing with the injury until it became too severe to continue.
“My injury happened in preseason this year, but it was not bad enough that it really needed that much attention. But then, I decided to keep playing and keep re-injuring it. It got to the point where my shoulder could not heal on its own, so I ended up having to get surgery,” he said. “Basically, my shoulder kept dislocating, eventually causing damage to the ligaments and tendons in my shoulder.”
After looking into his future as a student athlete, Becker has decided to focus more on the next steps in his recovery process.
“Since I just had surgery, my next steps are to let everything heal for a little bit before I start rehab. Then, I will slowly keep progressing my rehab until I’m all the way back to playing basketball again, which is going to be a while,” he said.
Despite this long road to recovery, Becker continues to remain positive about his career on the court.
“My mindset has been the same as it always is throughout this injury. I just focus on one thing at a time and can’t wait for the moment that I am able to play basketball again. I would say that my motivation is high because I love the game so much and just want to be out there with my teammates doing whatever I have to do for us to win,” he said.
Becker’s shoulder injury has also given him an opportunity to place more focus on his academics. “[My injury] is giving me more time to study and make sure that I’m doing the best that I can do on my assignments,” he said.
McKenzie shares Becker’s optimistic outlook on his injury, which he experienced at the start of the season. He said that it happened at an away game and did not seem too severe at first.
“[The injury] happened at our first away game against Cameron [University]. It was late in the game, and I landed on another guy’s foot and messed up my ankle pretty badly. The next day, my foot was all bruised up and I couldn’t play against Midwestern [State University],” he said.
“At first, we thought it was just a bad ankle roll and I’d be out for a couple weeks, but when it wasn’t getting any better, I got imaging done on it,” McKenzie said. “I ended up having torn ligaments, bone bruising, Achilles Tendinitis and bone marrow edema.”
McKenzie will also be out for the rest of the season and said that he hopes to get a medical hardship year so he doesn’t lose a year of eligibility.
Injuries like this can have a negative impact on an athlete’s mental health, but both Becker and McKenzie acknowledged the support that they have had from the program.
“The support has been great. I feel like they want me back playing on the court with them just as bad as I want to be out there,” Becker said.
McKenzie also commends the program for helping him during this tough period, “[The support’s] been good. Unfortunately, we have a few injuries on the roster, and it’s been good to be able to do rehab with those guys as we are all hoping to come back next year,” he said.
“I think that still being around the team helps me and knowing that I still have a year after this at least has kept me motivated to stay in shape and continue to work on my body through weights,” McKenzie said. “This will give myself the best chance at being the best I can next year.”
Becker is already looking forward to playing again once he has fully recovered.
“The thing that I’m looking forward to the most when I step back on the court is being able to play with my teammates again,” Becker said.
McKenzie agreed with this and said that he is looking forward to “actually getting to play with the new guys on the team and hopefully getting some wins with the guys.”
Jezza McKenzie during a spring 2023 game. Photo by Lillian Davis.