I am just sick about this news.
Indiana has confirmed this morning that senior Verdell Jones tore his ACL during the first half of yesterday’s game against Penn State. He will miss the rest of the Big Ten Tournament and any games Indiana plays in the NCAA Tournament.
If you want to know how all Indiana fans feel about this, just watch Tom Crean after yesterday’s game or read his words in the release:
“This is heartbreaking news,” said IU Coach Tom Crean. “His contribution to our program over the course of his career, and especially this season, is immeasurable. He was playing his best basketball and really had embraced his role on this team as a player and as a leader. We are proud of the career he has had at Indiana University and he, as much as anyone, deserved the opportunity to enjoy everything we have worked so hard for and are experiencing as a team. We appreciate all the prayers that have been said on his behalf.”
I think in my life as a sports fan, this is the worst I’ve ever felt about an injury.
When you add up the losing of the last three years, the see-sawing relationship with fans that Verdell has experienced, his consistent poise in the face of it, and then his maturity this year in accepting a less prominent role on a better team and becoming a true leader…I really feel like few IU players, if any, have ever deserved to play in an NCAA Tournament game as much as Verdell Jones.
That may sound like hyperbole, or prisoner-of-the-moment thinking, but I think you have to have been with this program every step of the way over the last four years to appreciate the ride Verdell in particular has been on. To see his career end this way, so close to living out his dreams and achieving the goals he’s worked so hard for…it’s just an awful thing to happen.
It’s sports, and it happens, and everything moves on; but that doesn’t shake the stomach punch feeling I got watching Verdell on the floor yesterday, or that I feel hearing this news this morning. I can only imagine what he and his teammates are feeling like.
Verdell’s contributions and leadership have evolved during his four years at Indiana. Now they’ll just have to evolve again. Indiana has proven itself a team that can overcome challenges with players who rally around eachother when adversity hits. Here is a challenge. Here is adversity.
It’s time to go win for Verdell.
Update: If anyone wants to leave words of encouragement for Verdell, here is a Win4VJ3 Facebook page.