Monday, May 21, 2018
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Rockets play better with healthy Currie




Anton Currie had high hopes for his senior season at the University of Toledo.

Instead, it has been mostly a big pain.

There was a nagging, long-term knee injury, surgery to repair a sports hernia, and then a bout with asthma.

Finally, the cloud appears to be lifting, and it's probably no coincidence the Rockets are playing at their highest level in the last two months.

Currie did not play in UT's first three games, still recovering from offseason surgery, and never saw more than 18 minutes of court time during the next dozen contests. But the 6-8 forward has played 20-plus minutes in six of the last seven games and the Rockets have won five of those.

"I'm still not at the top of my game," Currie said. "Some days are better than others. I try to be tough and not use any excuses for not playing as well as I should be."

No excuses have been needed of late.

While Currie hasn't exploded offensively - his season high is 11 points - he has played a major role on defense and has grabbed 13 rebounds in the last two games.

"He's long, he has a big wingspan and moves his feet well, so Anton can be a factor," said coach Stan Joplin, whose Rockets play at Detroit today in a non-league game. "He rebounds and stretches the defense."

Currie was slowed to a crawl during the offseason because of a groin-area injury that did not respond to treatment. UT's medical staff consulted with a team doctor from the Toledo Storm. Hockey, perhaps, more than any other sport sees what has come to be known as the sports hernia.

It is a tear in the muscles of the lower abdomen often caused by tight hip flexor muscles that stretch the lower abdominal wall muscles and tissue to the point of tearing. That, in turn, forces a bulge through the outer layers of the abdominal wall that creates intense pain in the groin during sudden movement.

"It's like a bubble in your tire, or like squeezing a balloon," said UT basketball trainer Brian Jones. "Straight ahead is no problem. But start using footwork and making cuts and shifts in movement and the pressure creates the protrusion, causing serious pain."

That's all mumbo jumbo to Currie.

"All I know is that the pain is nearly unbearable," he said. "I played through it last year as best I could, but near the end of the season it was more intense and really noticeable."

Currie was unable to play ball for almost six months, undergoing non-stop rehab for what was believed to be either a hip flexor or groin injury while team medical personnel tried to figure out exactly what was wrong. He underwent bone scans, MRI tests, CAT scans - you name it.

Finally, the Storm's doctor suggested a visit to the Henry Ford Medical Center in Detroit, where a surgeon went in to take a look and found the hernia. In layman's terms, he folded it over and sewed it up.

It quelled much of the pain, providing Currie stretches properly and is able to stay loose. That's why there was an exercise bicycle at the end of UT's bench during early-season games.

But he took a lot of ibuprofen to control the pain that remained, plus tendinitis pain in his knees. When weather conditions are right, though, ibuprofen can trigger asthma attacks, a problem Currie has dealt with most of his life. When that side effect kicked in, it was just something else he had to overcome.

"Anton has been through a lot, but I've never once heard him complain," said Jones.

But it has been on the court, off the court, etc., etc.

"Sometimes he can only go for short periods," Joplin said. "We've tried to juggle minutes as well as we can. Now, Anton seems to be as close to 100 per cent as he's been all season."

Through it all, Currie has had a one-woman support group. He has lived with his grandmother, Ocie Watson, most of his life and a couple years ago she moved from Lansing, Mich., to Toledo to be with him.

"She has been a big part of my life, a real blessing," Currie said. "I get a lot of good cooking. She takes care of me and I take care of her. With all she does, I'm able to be more focused for school and basketball."

The school part will end in May when Currie earns a degree in management and information technology. He's currently getting some on-the-job experience interning in UT's computer center.

As for the basketball part, a season that has been one struggle after another is finally looking up for Currie and his teammates.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at:

or 419-724-6398.

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