His shot is smooth, his penchant for hurtling himself through traffic for the ball is still there, his tenacity turned up to 11 as usual.
Boise State senior guard/forward Anthony Drmic looks like his old self a week into practices, and he likely will only feel better as his long, arduous recovery from ankle surgery nears an end.
“Just happy to be out there playing basketball again. ... I’m nearly there (health-wise),” Drmic said.
Gearing up for his fifth season with the Broncos, Drmic played in only seven games last season before he was shelved as a back injury in the Broncos’ home opener hampered him, then his nagging ankle required surgery in January.
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Like any competitor, he was eager to get back on the floor about a day after he was on the operating table. But his recovery stretched late into the summer as the nerve block from his surgery led to some nerve damage in his calf. Drmic said time will heal it, and it’s continuing to get stronger each week.
“It’s been a little bit slower. ... Hopefully within a couple weeks, I’ll be 100 percent, ready to go,” Drmic said.
Boise State rattled off a 20-7 record on its way to the Mountain West’s regular season title with Drmic on the bench, making it all the more difficult for him — “it was tough regardless, win or lose.”
“When you’re on the outside, you feel like you’re on the outside,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “It’s important that we keep him in the middle of things, but maybe not give him every rep.”
Whether it was the back and ankle that limited his practicing the first month of last season or the foot injury he suffered the prior season, Drmic more often than not was limited severely in practices. He said it was hard to switch into game mode, coming and getting a lot of shots without those practices.
“It was tough on everyone,” sophomore guard Chandler Hutchison said. “You can just slap a jersey on him and he can play, but it makes a difference when he’s in there each day doing the dirty stuff — it keeps building that leadership aspect.”
Though Rice said he won’t have Drmic go full bore every day, joking “he’ll probably run himself into the ground” before the first game if he did, the impact of him taking part in full practices thus far has been huge.
“I’ll just say it’s good to have him back,” Rice said. “You really appreciate what a competitor he is when he’s out there. Just doesn’t let his team lose.
“(Wednesday) was the best full practice he’s had in a long, long time, maybe two years.”
Drmic is a strong candidate to be named the Mountain West’s preseason player of the year next week, and he’s 416 points shy of tying the school scoring record of 1,944. If he averages 13 points per game in 32 games, he’ll break it, but 14.8 ppg will make him the school’s first 2,000-point scorer. He’s a career 15.3 ppg scorer.
He has relished what he calls “a mini coaching role” when the day calls for a break, but Drmic is quickly shaking off rust, looking ahead to Nov. 13’s season opener at Montana.
“We’re in the home stretch. ... I don’t need to kill myself now, but I still need to be out there and working hard,” Drmic said.