CECIL HURT: Steele still has a long road to recovery
Ronald Steele was back on the basketball floor at Coleman Coliseum on Wednesday afternoon -- but not in the way he wanted.
He wasn’t the flashy, fluid Ronald Steele from two seasons ago. He wasn’t even the sore, slow-speed Ronald Steele 2.0 version from the 2006-07 season.
For the moment, he is the stop-action Ronald Steele. The University of Alabama point guard moved tentatively, supporting himself with a pair of crutches and sporting a full brace on his right knee.
“I can’t bend that knee at all," Ronald Steele said.
“I don’t have to use crutches," he says, making a few tentative bunny hops to illustrate his point. “But it makes it easier to get around."
Ronald Steele said he isn’t sure when doctors will remove the brace from his right knee, but doesn’t anticipate any sort of activity -- even light jogging -- before July 1 after arthroscopic surgery on both knees earlier this month.
“The left knee is fine," Ronald Steele said. “The doctors were only in there for a second. In the right knee, they did a lot more. I don’t know all the medical terms, but there was loose cartilage that they repaired."
It took exploratory surgery to reveal the extent of the damage, which didn’t show up in frequent MRI exams of Ronald Steele that started last November. During that time, Ronald Steele kept trying to play major-college basketball, despite nagging pain.
“That was frustrating," he said. “I’d even try to psyche myself out and tell myself that it might not be that bad, that I could just play with it. But it still hurt.
“I had confidence in my doctors, but at the same time, I still knew my body wasn’t all the way right."
Ronald Steele refused to second-guess the decision not to operate during the season, though.
“I’m comfortable with what happened," he said. “Based on the extent of what we knew, there was no way to go ahead and say, 'Just do it before the season.’ I don’t think trying to play was a mistake."
Ronald Steele also said that he’s far more concerned about the future than he is the past. A July return to basketball won’t allow a great deal of time to regain his conditioning and hone his instincts before the season.
“I’ve never spent 10 weeks away from basketball, never ever in my life, not even when I was playing high school football," he said. “Even then I would play every day."
When asked to choose from a list of adjectives to describe his current status, Ronald Steele nodded at the mention of “frustrated" and “bored."
“I’m frustrated because of not being able to play," Ronald Steele said. “I’m bored because of going to rehab and doing the exact same exercises every day. I know I have to do it, but it gets kind of old. Right now, I can only do really simple things like lifting my leg with an ankle weight. Pretty soon I’ll be able to do more and it won’t be so boring."
Ronald Steele’s goal is to be back in action by late August, when Alabama will have a brief 10-day practice window preceding a Labor Day weekend trip to Canada for four games.
“I don’t know if I can be ready then or not," Ronald Steele said. “I’ve asked that same question. I want to play, but the one thing Coach [Mark] Gottfried doesn’t want to do is put me out there before I am ready.
“The doctors tell me that if I do everything I’m supposed to do in rehab, I will be back to 100 percent again. When that will be all depends on my progress."