This was supposed to be the healthy season for Boise State fifth-year senior basketball player Anthony Drmic — until his poor luck with injuries carried into surgery.
Drmic, who could climb to fourth on the school’s all-time scoring list this month, underwent season-ending surgery on his left ankle and redshirted in 2014-15. He exited that surgery with nerve damage in his calf.
The damage is expected to heal, but for now he must deal with weakness in the calf and manage his workload to stay strong for games.
“That was the scare early on with the nerve damage — they didn’t know if it was going to come back or not,” Drmic said. “But the tests I’ve done have all said that it should be fully recovered. It’s just a matter of when.”
The calf strength can’t return fast enough for Drmic or the Broncos (6-4), who play their marquee nonconference home game Saturday against No. 24 Oregon (7-1). Mountain West play is three weeks away.
“For that kid’s sake — he’s putting his heart and soul into this team as he always does — I just want him to have a stretch where he just gets to be healthy for a while,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said.
Drmic’s limitations were evident during the Wooden Legacy tournament over Thanksgiving weekend. He scored nine points on 1-for-6 shooting against Michigan State the day after the tournament opener, and eight points on 1-for-12 shooting against Arizona, when the Broncos played their third game in four days.
Drmic usually doesn’t practice the day after games.
“It’s a balancing act,” he said. “Ideally, playing those three games wasn’t the best for me. I’m trying, doing what I can.”
The calf gets weaker as he uses it, Drmic said. As the calf tires, he develops pain elsewhere. If he touches the calf, he gets a “pins and needles” feeling in his foot.
“It’s a weird sensation,” he said.
The good news for Drmic is the Broncos have at least two days off between games the rest of the season, at least until the Mountain West Tournament.
Rested going into last weekend’s game at Portland, Drmic scored a season-high 24 points in 32 minutes and shot 7-for-15 from the field. Four days later, he made a pair of 3-pointers and scored 10 points in 36 minutes against Loyola Marymount. He’s 6-for-16 from 3-point range in the past two games.
Rice is learning on the fly how to manage Drmic’s time.
“I have to do a better job of that because I trust him so much,” Rice said. “He’s one of the best competitors I’ve ever coached. With that, you want him out there because you trust his competitiveness and his toughness.”
Those are the qualities Drmic most wants to bring to the lineup, more than the tangible scoring and rebounding that make him so valuable.
So far this year, he’s averaging 29.6 minutes per game (lowest of his career), shooting 39.8 percent from the field (worst since his freshman year), shooting 38.6 percent from behind the arc (second-best in his career), hitting 79.5 percent of his free throws (best in his career) and averaging 3.4 rebounds per game (worst in his career). He averages 14.6 points per game, a little below his career average.
“I’m playing OK,” Drmic said. “Not where I want to be yet. Hopefully I can just continually get better.”
He has the same hope for the Broncos, who will put a 12-game home winning streak on the line against the Ducks. Boise State already is 0-3 this year against ranked opponents. All of those games were played away from home.
Oregon has to play in Boise, the Ducks’ first true road game of the season.
“It’s a big opportunity for us to step up,” Drmic said, “and show we can play with the big boys.”
No. 24 Oregon (7-1) at BSU (6-4)
- When: 5 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Taco Bell Arena
- TV: CBS Sports Network
- Radio: KBOI (670 AM); Bob Behler and Abe Jackson
- Tickets: Boise State has distributed 10,400 tickets. Most remaining seats are $15 adults in the balcony. Some singles remain in lower sections.
Rice apologizes for word choice
Boise State basketball coach Leon Rice apologized Friday for using the word “hate” when describing fans’ feelings toward the Oregon Ducks. Boise State and the Idaho Statesman, which published the comment in Friday’s newspaper, received complaints.
“I want to apologize for using a word I didn’t mean to use, and I know better than that,” Rice said. “When you talk about rivalries, you talk about strong words, passion, all that stuff, but my mom would be angry with me for using that hate word. That was bad. I just want our fans to come out passionate like they always are. Let’s sell this place out. Oregon, I’m very, very grateful to that place — that’s where I got my start in college coaching.”