MADISON, Wis. - Nobody would have blamed Josh Gasser for missing Tuesday's practice in the Kohl Center. The Wisconsin point guard just tore the ACL in his left knee last week, and it isn't uncommon for injured players to skip out on practice to focus on their rehab right away.
But there he was on Tuesday afternoon, standing courtside with crutches and a stabilizer on his left leg. Gasser said he'd undergo surgery to repair his ACL soon, but in the meantime he'll be doing everything he can to help his team. The injury has cost Gasser the entire 2012-2013 season but it hasn't deprived him of his responsibilities, even if watching practice is hard right now.
"I'm gonna do what I can to help us," Gasser said, his left leg resting up on an additional chair. "Coach expects me to, and already talked to me about still being a leader out there."
Gasser was supposed to start at point guard for the Badgers following Jordan Taylor's graduation, but those plans went awry when Gasser planted his left leg as he went up for a layup in practice. Gasser said he heard a telltale "pop" right away, and knew he was going to miss some time. Gasser said he'd never torn an ACL before, but he had an idea of what it would feel like to tear one.
"Right when it happened, I was pretty sure," Gasser said. "The physical pain was pretty bad, but it was nothing compared to the mental pain."
News of Gasser's injury broke late Saturday afternoon as the Wisconsin football team was playing Michigan State, and Gasser said he's received an outpouring of support from both friends and opponents. Gasser said senior Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips and Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe got in touch with him recently, both of whom have struggled with ACL injuries in their careers.
"There's been so many people who have reached out to me, it's pretty overwhelming," Gasser said.
As for the Badgers, they'll have to find a replacement for Gasser without ever starting him at point guard. George Marshall, Traevon Jackson, and Ben Brust have all been mentioned as potential candidates after word got out about Gasser's injury, but the injured point guard said he thinks the Badgers will be fine on offense without him this season, but someone will need to step up and lead the team on the court.
"We're not going to skip a beat with me out," Gasser said. "The big thing that I think we're gonna miss is a vocal guy at the guard position. That's something I can still contribute to, even if I'm not out there."
Gasser said he's planning on travelling with the team once he's able to, but he might miss the Badgers' early games away from the Kohl Center against UNLV and Florida while he recovers from the surgery. And while a return to the court this season is not in the cards, Gasser said he'd be ready to go this time next year, as long as he paces himself during his recovery.
"I'll be ready by next season," Gasser said. "I don't know when, I'm not going to rush into it. A lot of people do the quick rehab and try to get out there as fast as possible, but I'm not going to do any of that. I'm gonna take my time with it."