By AKILAH IMANI NELSON – (ainelson(at)thestate.com) – Original Article
For a moment, P.J. Dozier was worried.
In August, after playing on a torn ACL for more than four years, Spring Valley’s junior guard aggravated his knee injury during a camp. With advice from his parents — his father, Perry Dozier Sr., doubles as his coach — Dozier elected to have the surgery to repair the knee and sit out all or part of this season.
And briefly, Dozier wondered if this setback would derail his childhood dreams.
Since middle school, Dozier has been at the top of national prospect lists. As a sophomore, he had received offers from more than a dozen major programs, including Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio State and South Carolina.
But surgery meant rehabilitation, and that meant at least a few months off the court. And Dozier never had spent even a few weeks off the court.
“I definitely was concerned when I first found out I wasn’t going to be able to play,” he said. “All the colleges have been behind me and they’ve told me they weren’t going anywhere.
“That really let me know that I could take my time.”
Without the pressure of a college scholarship riding on a speedy recovery, Dozier has begun to see this time of recovery as a tool.
“I’m not seeing this as a setback or something that shouldn’t have happened. I just try to take everything that happened and turn it into a positive,” he said.
In the two-and-a-half months since his surgery, Dozier has found more than a few silver linings.
Not the least of which is a renewed commitment to the game.
Dozier, whose involvement with AAU teams, camps and all-star teams keeps him on the court year-round, shied away from saying he had been burnt out. But being forced to take a step back reignited his passion for the game.
“I won’t say that I was pulling away from the game, but this is giving me that extra drive to really strive and work hard and get back as soon as possible,” he said.
“I’m just ready to get back out there. This is definitely a benefit for me,” he said. “I go home every day and watch basketball. This has definitely put the motivation back in me.”
It is also making him physically stronger.
“Rehab is the most important thing, and I’m just taking advantage of this time off, not being on the court, to build my strength and agility, which is something I’ve never really had the time to do when I was playing with all those teams,” Dozier said.
And, it will ultimately make him a better teammate, he said.
He still attends every practice, often jumping in to shoot around a bit, but enjoys the perspective that comes from being sidelined.
“It’s good for me to sit back and watch and see the things I can bring to the game,” Dozier said.
Without Dozier, the Vikings are counting on their younger talent to step up, said coach Perry Dozier.
“P.J. makes a big difference,” the coach said. “We’re going to have to be faster and to win games on defense. That’s going to be the deciding factor on how many games we win.
“Making sure that we still have the leadership on the court, and just his presence makes a difference in terms of confidence,” he said.
P.J. Dozier said he is trying to still give the squad the benefit of his leadership, and motivate his teammates as much as he can.
“They see me like one of the coaches right now,” he said. But the 17-year-old has no plans of donning a suit and tie and watching the Vikings go through the 2013-14 season without him.
Despite the upside of this forced time off, Dozier is looking forward to returning to action for the Vikings and hopes to be game-ready by January. Coach Dozier said the Vikings are planning as if their star will miss the season, so that if he returns at any point, it will be a bonus.
“We’re going to do what we have to do and if we can get him back, too, all the better,” the coach said. “But we’ve got to have a reason for him to come back.”