May 18, 2010 1:06:00 PM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Second chances don''t come often enough in life.
So when Deonata Jethroe tore the anterior cruciate and the medial collateral ligaments in his right knee, he thought his basketball career was "over."
The injury prevented Jethroe from playing basketball as a senior, so he transferred back to Columbus High School to work toward getting his degree.
After having surgery on his knee in October, Jethroe began the road to recovery. Last week, he knew he wasn''t back to 100 percent, but he still decided to accompany a friend, Darius Crusher, to a basketball tryout at Alabama Southern Community College.
That decision helped Jethroe earn a second chance.
The Columbus High School student-athlete impressed Alabama Southern coach Ben Hicks enough to earn a scholarship offer. On Monday, Jethroe finalized those plans by signing a national letter of intent to join Hicks'' program.
"I am just going to have to work hard," Jethroe said. "I am going to do my work, do what the coach tells me to do, and I am not going to expect too much. I am going to work hard and be humble."
Jethroe is confident he will be able to make it all of the way back. He spent his 2007-08 school year at Columbus High before transferring to Hazel Green in Alabama. He played basketball in the state of Alabama as a junior but suffered his knee injury late in the summer before the start of his senior school year.
Jethroe''s friendship with Crusher, a 5-foot-9 point guard, helped him put basketball on his plate. He said he has known Crusher since the eighth grade and has played with him on Amateur Athletic Union teams for several years. He said his expectations weren''t high entering the tryout because he wasn''t confident about how his knee would hold up. The more he played, though, the better he felt and realized he could compete.
"I played real good and was making some noise out there," Jethroe said. "(Coach Hicks) saw that and wanted to sign us right there."
Jethroe had planned to go to a Division I school to try to walk on, but he is excited about the opportunity to take a step to help him get back to 100 percent.
"I was really happy (when Hicks offered him a scholarship)," Jethroe said. "I didn''t expect him to say the words he said. It made me feel good about myself."
Hicks, who is in his third season, guided the Eagles to a 27-5 record this season and a No. 19 national ranking. Alabama Southern, which has campuses in Monroeville, Thomasville, Gilbertown, and Jackson. The Monroeville campus is one hour south of Montgomery and one hour north of Mobile.
The school''s men''s basketball team plays in the Alabama Community College Conference, a league with 18 teams.
"Anytime a kid wants to come and work out, I have an open invitation," said Hicks, who was named the 2009-2010 Birmingham Tip Off Club Glen Clem Award/Junior College Coach of the Year. "Sometimes in recruiting it is all about luck, and I got lucky this time.
"Here is a kid who had a knee injury and didn''t play this year and kind of fell under the radar, which is fine with me. He is a 6-5 kid who can play multiple positions. Once he becomes 100 percent, he has a chance to be a low to mid-major player. He has that much potential."
Hicks told Jethroe on Monday he is out of shape and that he will have plenty of work to do once he arrives on campus. But Hicks said he was impressed with Jethroe''s skills and toughness when he competed against his players in pickup games.
Jethroe is ready to get back into basketball shape so he can take the next step.
"I can accomplish a lot if I get my knee back to where it was and I get my scoring ability and my explosiveness back," Jethroe said. "Once I get that, I feel I can do some big things."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.