Oregon State big men back on court

Oregon State big men back on court

CORVALLIS — Daniel Gomis thought about quitting basketball because never before had he been unable to play the sport he loves for two years.

A broken leg and complications that followed brought serious doubts about his future.

Angus Brandt has spent the last year traversing the highs and lows of rehab from a serious knee injury.

Slow progress in recovery was frustrating, providing one more hurdle to getting back on the court.

Tuesday night, both centers played for the first time since their injuries in Oregon State's ?-? win over Corban in an exhibition game at Gill Coliseum.

Gomis, a 6-foot-10 redshirt sophomore from Thies, Senegal, said he's feeling great and is playing pain free for the first time since he broke the major bones in his lower left leg during a pick-up game in his home country in the summer of 2011, just a few months before he arrived in Corvallis.

"It's a life experience, you being away from home and going through challenges and trying to deal with them," Gomis said. "It's the reason why we're here. We just can't give up when you face an obstacle in your life."

Problems with the rod in his leg required another surgery, and gone was another season of playing basketball for Gomis, who played his senior year of high school at prestigious Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.

Coaches and teammates were supportive as he dealt with it mentally as much as physically.

"He wants to be good more to pay us back, as much as we want him to be good so he can have a good experience," Beavers coach Craig Robinson said. "He's just a kid with a high amount of integrity. Everybody on the team is rooting for him."

Gomis is back to feeling 100 percent and the flexibility in his injured leg has returned. He's been a full participant at practice, save for an occasional recovery day Robinson has encouraged him to take.

Brandt knew almost immediately something was wrong when he landed on the floor in the second half against Purdue in the fourth game of the season last Nov. 16 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The 6-10 senior from Sydney, Australia, had intense pain after he felt his leg move unusually. He would later learn it was a torn anterior cruciate ligament and cost him the rest of the season.

Brandt had surgery in mid-December and by January, when he had shed his crutches, was able to do some stationary shooting.

The first three months brought strong improvement, while the next three it was slower.

Then came a plateau, when Brandt wondered if he was making any strides at all.

"I got stuck in one stage of rehab I just couldn't get past," he said.

Brandt had an appendectomy in September and suffered a badly sprained ankle just three days into practice earlier this month that kept him out for a week.

The barriers to getting back to playing continued, but Brandt kept battling.

"It's just getting back in shape now and getting my rhythm, trying to get back to play at the Division I level," he said.

As for personal expectations or goals this season, Brandt says he just wants to play his best and not look too far into the future.

"If I can just go through the season healthy I'd be happy with that right now," he said.

For Gomis, it's simply whatever he can do to help the team.

Robinson likes the progress he's seen from the two.

Both are going to have some rust, especially Gomis. Gomis can hide that better because he's a post player, and now he just needs to regain some physicality, the coach said.

Through the last year, Brandt and Gomis were by each other's side, pushing the other as they worked to get back to the court.

Not that you ever want a teammate to be going through the same pain and struggles. But it was a positive for both.

"Just seeing his hard work ... it's some motivation," Gomis said. "That really helped me a lot because he worked so hard to get back to where he is."

Brandt can't imagine being out for two years, as Gomis has. One was bad enough.

The friendship throughout the process has helped both get through it.

Sports reporter Jesse Sowa can be reached at 541-758-9565 or Follow him on Twitter @JesseSowaGT

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