If adversity builds mental toughness, this year’s Danville boys’ basketball team should be among the state’s strongest cerebrally.
While serious injuries are fairly uncommon in high school hoops, that hasn’t been Danville’s case. In this year’s senior class, three players have torn an ACL, two of which had it happen twice.
“I haven’t heard of anything like it,” Danville coach Brian Barber said. “To have three in one class and have two do it two times? That’s a rare thing.”
Though their trials and tribulations, D.J. Shipley, Brock Stevens and Shawn Weir have helped inspire and lead a Danville squad that’s exceeded all expectations this season.
“They’ve done a good job working through it and have been a good example for everybody,” Barber said. “All three have been great teammates and have contributed in a big way.”
Shipley was the first of the trio to go down. After he blew out his knee during his freshman year, Shipley battled back to get on the court. After getting clearance and returning his sophomore season, he suffered the same injury just a few games in.
“It kind of broke me because I just wanted to play basketball,” said Shipley, a 5-foot-10 guard. “It was frustrating, because the rehab process is so repetitious. It’s boring stuff. It hurt to work hard to get there and then have it happen again.”
Shipley returned last season, but was nowhere near as comfortable as he is today.
“Really only now do I feel like I’m all the way back,” Shipley said. “To get that brace off, because it was always a reminder to me, it felt great.”
Stevens, a 5-foot-8 guard, started for Danville as a sophomore, but ripped up his knee in an AAU game the following summer.
“There were college coaches there, and I was having a good game,” Stevens said. “Then I did a spin move, and my leg got stuck and it tore. It was the worst thing I’d felt in my life."
Six months into rehabilitation, Stevens tried to jump and touch a rim. The landing resulted in another tear, and reset his return clock back to zero.
“It was very hard to get through,” Stevens said. “There were nights where I’d just stay up and cry. It was devastating.”
Stevens leaned on his friend, Shipley, and came back nine games into this season.
“I can tell I’m not back to where I was, but I’m getting there,” Stevens said. “It’s a slow process.”
Weir, a 6-foot-3 post player, suffered his injury in a varsity game a year ago this month. As he also suffered through rehab, Weir had two teammates to aid in the mental part of recovery.
“Rehab was repetitive and frustrating, but with D.J. and Brock having gone through it, they helped me keep my head on straight,” Weir said. “It helped having them to relate to, because you can talk about it and get through it.”
The trio is part of a nine- to 10-man rotation this season, one that has grown as the season has progressed.
“We’re so deep and everyone plays so well together,” Weir said. “We really are like a family. Everybody says that, but we truly are.”
While on-court team success has made the season enjoyable, so has the reunification of the Warriors’ five-man senior class.
“I haven’t played with Brock since our freshman year, and I played without Shawn for a long time, too,” Shipley said. “To finally be on the court at the same time is amazing. Most people probably didn’t think we’d be above .500, and we just want to go out and finish strong.”
— Follow Hendricks County Flyer sports writer Brent Glasgow on Twitter @BGlasgow37.