by Ryan Schulz
When sophomore guard Brad Tinsley fell to the floor grimacing in pain during the second half of Vanderbilt’s regular season finale against South Carolina, the air felt like it had been sucked out of Memorial Gym.
Could a key part of the rotation miss the rest of the season? Could a promising season be derailed by one injury? Although the patrons in the arena sat quietly, the questions were swirling in their heads.
After a short time on the floor, Tinsley limped off the court and would be diagnosed with a sprained left knee. An injury that appeared to be much worse and potentially season-ending would only limit Tinsley in practice during preparation for the team’s SEC Tournament game against Georgia just six days later.
With a heavily bandaged knee, Tinsley played just 12 minutes in Vanderbilt’s 78-66 win against Georgia as the coaching staff slowly eased him back onto the court. Tinsley hit one of two shots and finished the game with two points.
For Tinsley, the hardest part of returning to the court was the uncertainty he faced when he first checked into the game.
“Just getting into the game was the most difficult thing because I was kind of worried about twisting it,” Tinsley said. “It is always in your mind when you suffer an injury like that. I think the biggest thing was just getting out there and just trying to play through the pain.”
In Vanderbilt’s most recent game against Mississippi State, a more confident Tinsley logged 20 minutes and finished 3-of-4 from beyond the arc in a 62-52 loss.
When Vanderbilt takes the court on Thursday it will be 12 days since Tinsley’s injury. Although he says the knee is better than it was, he is still not 100 percent and will continue to wear a large brace.
“It is pretty sore right now and we’ve been doing a lot of treatment,” Tinsley said. “The trainer (Shannon Gordon) has been really good to me, just trying to get me ready for the games. It’s still pretty sore, so I’ve got it taped and bandaged up so it is pretty good and stabilized.”
The most difficult part for Tinsley remains the first few minutes of the game when his leg is stiff from sitting.
“It loosens up after you are out there for a little while,” Tinsley said. “Also the adrenaline gets going when you are out there and you don’t really pay attention to it unless you get up and tweak it like I did in one of the games.”
It would have taken a lot more than a knee sprain to prevent Tinsley from missing his first NCAA Tournament game. An Oregon City, Ore., native, Tinsley expects to have a good number of friends and family in the stands for his return to the West Coast, and he doesn’t plan on disappointing.
“Any time in the NCAA Tournament anyone can beat anybody,” Tinsley said. “It doesn’t matter who is seeded what. You’ve got to treat each game like it is your last and you have to stick to your game plan and just try to outplay and outwork other teams.”
Even less than 100 percent, Tinsley is expected to be a key component for the Commodores when they open the NCAA Tournament at 1:30 p.m. CT on Thursday against Murray State.
(photo by John Russell)