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Valpo’s Matt Kenney won’t back down in spite of back injury

Valparaiso's Matt Kenney looks basket with Green Bay's Keifer Sykes Cole Stefan trying stop first half Valpariaso University Wednesday evening.

Valparaiso's Matt Kenney looks to the basket with Green Bay's Keifer Sykes and Cole Stefan trying to stop in the first half at Valpariaso University Wednesday evening. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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The Big Number

Alex Rossi has participated in one practice since undergoing a heart procedure, as the sophomore guard returned to team activities on Thursday. After undergoing cardiac ablation last week, he received medical clearance on Tuesday, doing some light shooting as the team played UIC, before Wednesday’s off day. Rossi has not played in a game since Dec. 22 against Purdue Calumet (nor practiced), and it was unclear when the California transfer would return to game action.

“It’ll take a little time for him to get back in shape,” coach Bryce Drew said. “He’s been off for quite a while, so it’s going to be a process.”

The Bonus

Ryan Broekhoff said he started feeling “really tired and feverish” about four hours before Tuesday’s win against UIC. He then proceeded to put up 22 points and six rebounds in 25 minutes.

“I’m feeling better,” Broekhoff, who has been taking medication, said on Thursday. “I had a few rough days, wasn’t feeling too well — before the game, and yesterday I didn’t feel well at all. But I woke up this morning feeling a lot better than I have, so everything’s all good.

“It didn’t really affect the playing performance, which is the main thing. It was nice to be able to build that lead and be able to sit out the last so many minutes to kind of rest and not put any more strain on my body.”

Broekhoff had a bout with mononucleosis earlier this season, but this illness was not a recurrence.

“Fingers crossed, that’s done with and I won’t have to think about that again,” he said.

Updated: March 10, 2013 6:48AM



VALPARAISO — In order for his back to truly heal, Matt Kenney has been told he would have to take off at least a month.

And he simply does not have that sort of time.

Not as a senior. Not with the goals he, his five classmates, and all of his Valparaiso teammates have.

So Kenney will continue, virtually every day, to do his rehabilitation routine and receive treatment. And he has every intention of continuing to play.

“Resting and not playing, I don’t see that as an option,” Kenney said. “Not playing with these guys, I can’t really do that. I have to play through it. It’s nothing I can’t deal with.”

An MRI revealed degenerated discs at three vertebral levels in his lower back, and an “overgrown” bone rubbing on tissue.

Kenney has been dealing with lower back problems since his freshman season — “it’s hereditary, too,” he said — getting treatment “on and off” throughout his college career. But any discomfort he had been experiencing paled in comparison to his pain about two weeks ago.

After his back was bothering him a bit in the days leading up to the Crusaders’ game against Green Bay on Jan. 23, he woke up the next morning hurting badly. At that point, he knew he needed further evaluation.

“It was the worst it’s ever been, by far,” Kenney said.

He wound up playing just six minutes at Youngstown State, and missing the game against Milwaukee. He returned on Tuesday against UIC, posting nine points, five rebounds and five assists — becoming the second player in Valparaiso history with 400 rebounds and 300 assists, joining former standout Lubos Barton (1998 to 2002) — in 19 minutes off the bench.

“It was literally a game-time decision,” said Kenney, averaging 7.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists this season. “Coach Bryce (Drew) told me to warm up and see how it was feeling. I went in there and told him I wanted to play. Senior year, this is a key stretch in our season, and I just want to help my team.

“It still hurts, it’s still painful, but I told him I wanted to give it a go and at least try. Once you get in the game, the adrenaline gets going and it kicks in, and you quit thinking about it.”

Drew liked what he saw from Kenney against the Flames.

“Matt really gave us a spark, and he didn’t have any big setbacks, so that’s a good sign,” Drew said. “We need him for us to do what we want to do this season.”

And Kenney plans to be available for the duration. On Monday, he had practiced for the first time since the Green Bay game, on a limited basis, as likely will be the case for the rest of the season, to minimize wear and tear in non-game situations.

“I’m going to play against Cleveland State (on Saturday) and the rest of the way out,” Kenney said. “I can’t imagine sitting out any more games this year.”



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