Collin Hartman acknowledges that maybe he has surprised a few people with how quickly he returned from an ACL injury.
The sophomore forward suffered a torn ACL in his right knee March 15 when he incorrectly planted his leg in a drill at practice. He went into surgery to repair the torn ACL on March 26.
Because the injury occurred at the end of last season, IU Coach Tom Crean didn’t expect Hartman to return so quickly from his injury, despite doctors telling Hartman it was realistic to be ready for the start of the 2014-15 season. IU’s first game was nearly eight months after Hartman’s surgery, but Crean wasn’t as optimistic that he’d be in shape to play basketball.
“Frankly, if I had to look at this a couple months ago and say we would have had him for the exhibition games, even though the doctors were optimistic, I wouldn’t have shared that same optimism,” Crean said. “Fortunately, I was wrong.”
Hartman was cleared to play shortly before IU’s first exhibition game to start the season. He’s suffered no setbacks thus far and is averaging 4.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
It’s a partially unexpected surprise for Crean, who said Hartman is playing the way Crean imagined when he recruited him. An ACL injury, although increasingly common among athletes, takes months for recovery, and that’s without considering the time it takes to get into ?playing shape.
But for now, the only outside indication of his injury is the heavy black brace he wears on his knee.
Surprised by the recovery? Hartman isn’t.
This has been the plan all along.
“The day that it happened, I actually kept telling myself, ‘I’m going to be back next season,’ because it was a six-month period, six-and-a-half months away,” Hartman said. “I always thought (recovery) was six to nine months, so I just shot for six months.”
The 6-foot-7 Indianapolis native brushed off most of the credit for his unexpectedly quick recovery, passing off the credit to IU’s team surgeon Steve Ahlfeld, team doctor Tim Carl, strength coach Je’Ney Jackson and his team.
At home, Hartman said his family was his strongest support, but he wasn’t about to receive any pity from them. His mother has had six knee surgeries of her own, and his stepfather has had a complete knee reconstruction surgery.
He said the mental strain was the toughest part of the recovery. While his teammates practiced on the court, he was spending two-hour sessions in rehab that he said tested his mental endurance.
“We talked about a little bit, just having something taken away from you kind of makes a whole new mindset for you because you don’t know what you’ve got really until its gone,” Hartman said. “I’d never really not had basketball. Just not being on the court, not being able to work with the guys and do everything everybody else does. It kind of just gave me a new hunger almost to just get out there and just be aggressive (and to) be able to help the team.”
What had junior guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell talking the most about Hartman was not the fact he was on the court, but how he was playing on it.
Hartman scored just 11 points all of last season and went 0-of-3 on 3-pointers. He spent ample time taking regular sessions with “The Shot Doctor,” better known as Assistant Coach Tim Buckley.
Buckley significantly improved Hartman’s form. He used to shoot with his elbow out, but now he has it more tucked underneath the ball.
Hartman said he’s fading away too much when he jumps but that his mechanics are as good as they’ve been.
Crean doesn’t label Hartman as a spark off the bench or a point forward. Crean described Hartman as simply “a basketball player.”
Right now, the basketball player is finding his groove and his role in IU’s rotation. Whether it be scoring a few points or grabbing a loose ball, Hartman said he’ll do whatever the team needs.
Ferrell played against Hartman in both AAU and high school and has spoken highly of Hartman’s confidence and abilities. He said he wasn’t surprised with how quickly he recovered and added he’s glad he did.
“Yeah, he’s kind of looking like his old self a little bit,” Ferrell said. “I think the thing is, his confidence got up, and I think that is the biggest part. If he just does everything that coach says, he can get out there on the court and definitely contribute for us.”