|JCSU's Harper endured pain to contribute on the court|
|Senior center overcame ACL, Achilles injuries|
|Published Friday, March 8, 2019 2:11 pm|
|PHOTO | TROY HULL|
|Johnson C. Smith senior center Antonio Harper, left, played through a torn ACL and tendonitis in his Achilles to contribute to the Golden Bulls' 10-18 campaign.|
Pain could not stop Antonio Harper.
Johnson C. Smith’s senior center experienced numerous injuries during two seasons with the Golden Bulls, starting with a torn ACL.
“My first year here, I tore my [right] ACL,” Harper said. “Then [I had to] rehab, at least five days a week that first year. Got cleared over the summer, and then I [developed] tendonitis in my left Achilles. I had a swollen right knee. Anything you can name leg-wise, I had.”
Said senior forward Roddric Ross: “I love Tony. He comes in and works hard every day in practice, even when it hurts.”
Harper, a Wilson, North Carolina native, transferred from Sandhills Community College. He replaced Malik Ford and Arthur Bennett as the Golden Bulls starting center as a senior with a season-high 12 points against Lees-McRae, and season-best six blocked shots against Chowan. He averaged 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds per game on a team that went 10-18 overall, 5-13 in the CIAA—a far cry from last season’s 20-win squad. Smith lost in the CIAA tournament quarterfinals to Virginia Union, the same side that beat them in the 2017-18 final. They went further than expected, beating Chowan and Claflin respectively in the first two rounds with buzzer-beater overtime three-pointers.
“The last two games felt like a movie,” Harper recalled. “Just being down with three minutes left. Roc hit the first game-winner, and Cayse hit the second. It was meant for us to be here. Stuff like that happens. Roc is one of the best players I’ve played with in my life. It was an honor to play with him. I’m not surprised [by] what happened in the [first] two [rounds].”
Injuries altered the way Harper could train, as tendonitis limits the amount of time a person can spend on his or her feet. However, coach Steve Joyner found ways to keep him involved.
“There were certain things that we would do that we would do that he could not do, sometimes that was running or jumping,” Joyner said. “We had to gauge that on a daily basis.”
Said Harper: “For my Achilles, I would ice, rehab and meet with our athletic trainer. I have an insole in my shoe. It’s hard. With stuff like that, you just have to rest, but I knew I couldn’t rest during my final season. I just had to push through.”
Harper never used his injuries as a crutch, though.
“He was outstanding about not taking advantage of that,” Joyner said. “Some players would take advantage of that, and say, ‘I don’t want to run today.’ He was very honest with himself, and honest with the team. He was very productive this year.”
Harper’s time with the Golden Bulls offered more life lessons than anything else.
“Nobody cares if you’re injured—I’m not saying that in a bad way,” he said. “In life, you just gotta fight through it. That’s all I did—just fight, fight, fight, because I knew I could contribute some way to this team. I knew these fellas were depending on me to block shots and rebound. That’s what I wanted to do for my team.”
Said Joyner: “His career has been riddled with injuries. He has had a lot of different problems with his legs. Most nights he is in pain. We are real appreciative of him and his efforts to come out and give us what he could, this particular year.”
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