Former Florida forward Adam Allen understands what current UF senior center John Egbunu is going through.
For more than two years at Florida, Allen tried to rehabilitate from two knee surgeries. At one point, the 6-foot-8 former Milton High (Northwest Florida) standout was told his career was over.
Eventually, after undergoing a third surgery from renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, Allen was able to return to the court and play two seasons at Rollins College.
The 6-foot-11 Egbunu has been out since suffering a torn ACL last Feb. 14 against Auburn. The timetable for Egbunu’s recovery has been pushed back from late January to indefinite as he’s been yet to be cleared for full-contact practices.
“I feel for Egbunu,” Allen said. “You know, everybody said he was going to be back in January and it’s just kind of nagging him, he hasn’t been able to get back to 100 percent. I know he’s going through it right now mentally, if I had to give advice to somebody in that situation, it’s don’t lose faith, don’t lose hope. Just live in the moment.”
Allen was part of a UF recruiting class that was ranked No. 1 in the country in 2007, a class that included McDonald’s All-American guards Nick Calathes and Jai Lucas and future SEC player of the year and NBA standout Chandler Parsons. But in preseason practices before the 2008-09 season, Allen knocked knees with teammate Erving Walker. What was originally diagnosed as an MCL sprain resulted in Allen undergoing exploratory surgery. After the first surgery, Allen’s knee wasn’t moving properly, swaying side to side rather than up and down. That resulted in Allen undergoing a second surgical procedure called medial reefing, which tightened the tissue on the inside of his knee. When Allen was unable to recover properly from the second surgery, he was told his career was finished.
“I didn’t know how to handle all that at that point in my life being a 20-year-old kid, everything I worked for being gone in a blink of an eye,” Allen said.
Allen said suffering setbacks during rehabilitation can take a physical and mental toll.
“Just going to the gym every day, not involved with what the team is doing on the court, you are not able to help your team during a game,” Allen said. “I really became detached from the game itself, I didn’t want to be in the gym, I didn’t want to be around my teammates, not in a bad way that like, I wasn’t terrible to my teammates and stuff, but I just really was not myself.”
Allen said Egbunu will benefit from current UF athletic trainer Dave “Duke” Werner, who was his trainer as well. Werner has been on UF’s training staff since 1994 and has been the head basketball trainer since 2004.
“Duke is one of the best athletic trainers for sure, he really does a great job for keeping guys that are injured engaged, involved, to keep their hopes up,” Allen said. “Because if you don’t have hope to come back and be able compete and play at a high level, you don’t have anything.”
Egbunu was cleared for non-contact drills three weeks ago, but hasn’t done pregame workouts in each of UF’s last two games. He’s endured a few setbacks, including feeling pain in his non-surgically repaired knee during workouts.
“I would never doubt his eagerness, his dedication,” UF coach Mike White said of Egbunu’s rehab. “Duke’s been really pleased with him … It’s just a process to come back from an ACL. Sometimes, I’ve been around a few of them, you know how it is, sometimes guys are on schedule and sometimes they’re not and I hate it for this team. I hate it more for him, but you never know, heck he could be back very soon, not ruling it out. Just wishing for the best.”
Allen, who turns 29 this month, now lives in Dallas and is working for an airlines baggage guest services company. He’s still able to play pickup basketball from time to time with his younger brothers, when he returns to his native Milton. Although he was unable to stay healthy enough to maintain a career in Division I basketball, Allen has no regrets about his decision to come to Florida.
“Being able to play basketball and the network I was able to develop, I’ll always have that,” Allen said. “It’s got me where I am in life now. Yeah sure, I never got to play in the NBA, I never got to play pro basketball, but yeah everybody has got to get a real job and do something else eventually anyway, you can’t play forever. I think it just kind of forced me to grow up a little bit in that sense that basketball isn’t everything, my whole life is in front me.”