Branden Dawson has developed a reputation for making crowds gasp from seeing his highlight reel dunks and athleticism at both ends of the floor. Yet on Sunday, the sophomore guard made the Breslin Center crowd gasp for a different reason.
During a breakaway attempt in the second half of a 66-56 victory over Nebraska, Dawson appeared to lose his footing and fell to the floor with a grimace. After clutching his knee on the ground for several minutes, Dawson was helped to the locker room, causing many to speculate if he had injured the same anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, that caused him to miss the NCAA Tournament a season ago.
Even with the Spartans battling in a close game, the Breslin crowd remained in shock for several minutes, as if contemplating the dynamic of their team once more without one of its most exciting players.
“I was just thinking, ‘Oh, not (Dawson),’” senior center Derrick Nix said. “I was scared and I was nervous and I was just praying he was alright.”
As it turns out, Dawson wouldn’t be gone long enough to let them find out.
Shades of former Spartan Mateen Cleaves hobbling back to the floor after an injury during the 2000 national championship game, Dawson emerged from the locker room several minutes later in a full sprint before checking back into the game.
“It was just planted wrong and my knee kind of buckled,” Dawson said. “You know, my body went through a shock and I was just telling myself, ‘Not again.’ I had a flashback of what happened against Ohio State. (But) I just planted the wrong way.”
Few were hanging on to the outcome of the situation more than head coach Tom Izzo.
Izzo was there when Dawson fell to the floor in a game against Ohio State in March 2012 and he has watched Dawson’s return, knowing the Gary, Ind., native has fought an uphill battle to return that made him such an asset as a freshman.
Having watched the team’s third-leading scorer battle through a summer of rehabilitation that kept him away from the game he loves, Izzo said emotions were running high when Dawson returned to the court.
“I was here when Mateen Cleaves came out in the National Championship game, but I think I’ll admit my smile was bigger tonight because I was scared to death the kid did his knee in again,” Izzo said. “I felt for him lying there, and I really can’t explain the emotions of that minute. And when he ran back in he said he just tweaked it, and I’m sure there was a fear on his part.”
Kearney to Arizona State
After leaving the MSU basketball program in December, Brandan Kearney will transfer to Arizona State, according to multiple outlets.
Kearney announced his intentions to leave the program after averaging 2.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in 16.9 minutes per game this season.
“I’m thankful to Michigan State and the basketball program for the opportunity they gave me,” Kearney said in a statement following his departure. “I wish them the best of luck with the rest of their season. I wish my teammates – every single one of them – all the best as individuals and as a team. I just think it’s best for me to get a fresh start and play elsewhere.”
As the news of Kearney’s decision made its way around the Spartan locker room after the game, several players including Nix and freshman guard Gary Harris were content to hear about the destination of their former teammate.
“I’m happy for him,” Nix said. “That was one of my close friends too and I’m just happy for him. I’m going to call him in a little bit.”
Harris said Kearney brings a lot of energy and a willingness to be a team player, which will serve him well as a future member of the Sun Devils program.
“That’s good for him,” Harris said. “I feel like he’s going to do outstanding there. I’m happy he’s found a school to go to. We built a pretty good relationship when I came here and I wish him nothing but the best of luck.”