Inside Derick Nelson's Summit championship pregame physical therapy
Many people saw what Derick Nelson was capable of on Tuesday’s national broadcast of the Summit League Tournament championship game, when the senior poured in 36 points in Oakland’s victory over IUPUI. Some even heard how unlikely the dream scenario was just hours before game time.
Nelson, who has battled a groin injury much of the season, tweaked his back just three hours before tip off in the most important game of his life. After a session biomechanical specialist Shawn Sherman, Nelson played an awe-inspiring, tournament MVP caliber performance.
“He had just gotten up from sleeping and was hunched over. He was able to walk, but it was ugly. He didn’t look like the elite athlete he is. He looked pretty awful,” Sherman said.
For Nelson, the key to his back pain was actually coming from his groin, which Sherman and director of sports medicine Tom Ford monitored before and during the game.
“I was in some immense pain before the game. I could barely walk. Once the game started, my adrenaline took over and I was all right. I wasn’t missing that game for nothing," Nelson said.
“I’m a senior and that could have been my last game and I wasn’t going to miss it.
Sherman said Nelson said the pain was minimal following the session.
“I felt like he was better, but one wrong move and he could fall apart again,” Sherman said.
Sherman was more than pleasantly pleased to see how Nelson was doing after halftime.
“I texted a buddy of mine and said ‘I’m not feeling good things about Nelson, I feel like he’s either going to get hurt or have an awful game,’ ” Sherman said. “At halftime, I told him I’ve never been so glad to be wrong about something, because (Nelson) had 20 points. I was flipping out in the stands. I felt like I put duct tape on him and he just was an animal.”
It would be hard to measure, but a fan must wonder how much of the performance was based on medical attention and what portion was drawn from Nelson inner desire to finally win the championship.
“All I really remember from the game is the final buzzer going off and us being on top. I didn’t really care about the points," Nelson said. "I would have been content scoring zero points and us still winning, that was the whole reason I was there and that’s what I was striving for."
Nelson took a medical redshirt and declined offers to play professionally in order to return to this team following a season where he missed all but two games due to a broken foot. He made it clear early on that his goal was to win the tournament championship, and nothing less would do. His play on Tuesday reaffirmed his commitment.
(The Oakland Press/JOSE JUAREZ)