College Basketball

Ex-Lake Norman star KiShawn Pritchett’s wait continues

Davidson freshman KiShawn Pritchett during practice.
Davidson freshman KiShawn Pritchett during practice. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

KiShawn Pritchett’s long wait isn’t over yet.

A nagging knee injury that kept him from playing all but two games of his senior high school basketball season has cropped back up.

That means Pritchett, an incoming freshman at Davidson, is out for another three months after undergoing successful minor surgery last Thursday on his problematic left knee.

“Mentally, KiShawn is a little bit challenged by this,” said Wildcats coach Bob McKillop. “He’s wondering, ‘When am I going to get better?’”

But McKillop is confident Pritchett will be at full strength when Davidson begins practice in the fall.

By then, Pritchett and McKillop hope, the long wait will finally be over.

Pritchett had high hopes for his senior season at Lake Norman High. As a junior, he led the Lake Norman Wildcats to the 2013-14 N.C. 4A championship game, where they came up short against Apex in Chapel Hill’s Smith Center. He wanted to help the Wildcats take the next step – their first state title – in the 2014-15 season. A skilled 6-foot-6 wing, he was on track to become the school’s all-time leading scorer.

In August 2014, Pritchett committed to Davidson, one of more than 20 schools that offered him a scholarship.

But a few weeks after preseason practice began at Lake Norman, Pritchett felt a twinge in his left knee.

“That was a little bit unexpected, because what I was feeling wasn’t caused by a particular event,” said Pritchett. “It was nothing specific.”

Pritchett said an MRI on the knee revealed what was thought to be a meniscus tear. If he had arthroscopic surgery, his doctor said, he’d miss about three weeks.

Pritchett, however, thought he could play through the pain. He played in Lake Norman’s first two games before the discomfort became too much.

The day before Thanksgiving, Pritchett had the surgery. But doctors found more than a torn meniscus. They discovered lesions caused by osteochondritis dissecans, a rare disorder that causes cracks in the knee joint. Instead of merely repairing the meniscus, microfracture surgery was required.

“It was a lot more than (doctors) thought,” said Pritchett.

Pritchett was still hopeful that he would get back on the court by Christmas or at least by January. But a few weeks turned into a few months. Before he knew it, Lake Norman was having its senior night for the basketball team and he still hadn’t played.

“I was pretty hurt,” Pritchett said of how he felt when it became apparent he wouldn’t play again for Lake Norman. “But there wasn’t much I could do.”

Pritchett began to turn his focus on Davidson, which is just a few miles from his Mooresville home. Working with assistant athletic trainer Chris Hagemann earlier this summer, Pritchett felt his knee growing stronger. He took part in light offseason drills.

Although still limited, Pritchett made a quick impact on the team.

“He’s been as involved as possible,” said Wildcats guard Brian Sullivan. “He’s already shown us he’s unselfish and is a great teammate.

“It would be easy for him to sit in a corner and pout. But he’s asking questions and getting to know the system. I don’t think he knows he’s made an impression on us, but he has.”

McKillop said despite Pritchett’s injury and the inactivity that’s come from it, there was no doubt that his scholarship offer would still be honored. McKillop also continued to recruit junior guard Jack Gibbs when Gibbs hurt his knee in high school, even after other schools backed off.

“When we give our word, we give our word,” said McKillop. “These guys have done the work to get admitted to Davidson College. That’s the pretext and we honor that. We want to help KiShawn back to full health, as we did with Jack.”

As the Wildcats broke for the remainder of the summer at the end of June, Pritchett started to feel more discomfort in the knee, which was again swelling. McKillop said last week’s arthroscopic surgery was to “clean things out.” No unwanted surprises were found this time, and Pritchett is rehabbing with the expectation of being ready for preseason practice in October.

“KiShawn is a very grounded young man,” said McKillop. “He realizes that things happen. He understands how fortunate he is to have the ability to run and walk and jump. He has a full scholarship to a prestigious academic institution.”

Pritchett said he’s gotten that message from McKillop. He said he’s eager to be a fully contributing member to a team that won the Atlantic 10’s regular championship last season, the Wildcats’ first in the league, and earned a bid to the NCAA tournament.

“(McKillop) has told me to keep working for greatness,” said Pritchett. “He expects that from everyone.”

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Twitter: @davidscott14

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