Ahrens sends 'positive vibes' from bench while out with ankle injury
DES MOINES, Iowa — Kyle Ahrens sat in Michigan State's locker room Wednesday, trying to explain to reporters the anatomy of his now-sprained left ankle.
After visiting with a chiropractor on Tuesday before the team left Michigan, the hybrid guard/forward used two fists to demonstrate what a healthy ankle looked compared to his. What it should look like, according to Ahrens, is a two balled fists on top of each other. When Ahrens sought treatment, it was more like the pinky knuckle of the top hand was resting on the index finger of the bottom.
"(There's) bruising all the way here, down the there," Ahrens said, as he pointed to the middle of his shin to the top of his foot in a hard boot. "And he adjusted it to where it’s right here again. It hurts."
Ahrens was diagnosed with a Grade 3 sprain in the ankle after landing on it awkwardly trying to grab a rebound late in the first half of MSU's comeback win over Michigan in the Big Ten tournament championship in Chicago on Sunday. Ahrens was lifted off the court by stretcher and taken to a facility within the United Center to undergo X-rays.
The sprain occurred in the same leg Ahrens broke that kept him out for all of 2017-18. Doctors thought initially Ahrens re-fractured it, until he told them of the previous injury.
"I thought it was (broken) because the instant swelling, it felt like a lump was the ankle bone," Ahrens said. "That’s why I kind of started, like, to freak out a little."
Ahrens has yet to undergo an MRI to reveal potential ligament damage. Ahrens said according to his chiropractor, the practice of adjusting the sprain "gets people back in a third of the time of what it should be."
But according to point guard Cassius Winston, shortly after the injury Ahrens was cracking jokes and smiling. Though Ahrens is limited to his disability, Winston — the consensus Big Ten Player of the Year and first team All American — said seeing him stay positive has been motivational for the team.
"You know, he’s given his heart, his energy, his voice," Winston said. "You see him, he’s got a positive smile, he’s joking and laughing with us, all types of stuff where a lot of guys can go through that and just be down. That just takes energy."
Ahrens said he woke up Wednesday and felt slightly better. But Izzo announced Monday that Ahrens is most likely done for the season.
"I’m keeping my hopes high," Ahrens said. "I just gotta send a positive vibe to these guys."
Among the things he can still do are help fellow wings Matt McQuaid, Aaron Henry and Gabe Brown with defensive assignments, but the role now for Ahrens as second-seeded MSU (28-6) opens the NCAA Tournament against No. 15 Bradley (20-14) on Thursday (approximately 2:45 p.m. EST) is to provide a morale boost from the bench.
The gesture is greatly appreciated by his teammates.
"He’s not a selfish guy at all," forward Xavier Tillman said. "It’s so easy to get injured and think ‘I don’t want to talk to anybody, I’m gonna be in my hole. I want everybody to feel bad for me.’ But he was the complete opposite when he got hurt."
Ahrens was the primary wing off MSU's bench to relieve McQuaid and Henry and averaged 4.7 points and 18.8 minutes in 30 games, starting in eight, prior to the injury. Brown, a freshman who's appeared in 27 games is likely to accumulate most of Ahrens' playing time.
Regardless of who's in the game, Ahrens will be cheering from the bench.
"I’m gonna be right there going crazy on the bench, getting them fired up in huddles, just let them know when it’s winning time, let them know when we’re messing up, hold each other accountable and do whatever I can," Ahrens said.