CEDAR FALLS – A familiar lanky blonde kid has been hanging around the University of Northern Iowa’s McLeod Center an awful lot the past month.
That isn’t new news when you talk about a healthy AJ Green.
The word healthy is key.
Green, the 2020 Larry Bird Missouri Valley Conference Most Valuable Player, missed most of the 2020-21 season for the Panthers after suffering a hip injury in last November’s Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls.
The injury required surgery on the left hip in early December and he had the same procedure in February on his right hip.
Green has been steadily ramping up his activity in the past three months as part of his recovery. Finally, in June, Green passed his final functionality test in and was cleared to participate in UNI’s summer workouts.
The Panthers are allowed up to eight hours of practice time with coaches for eight weeks in the summer.
On a day that Kyle Green joined Iowa State's staff, AJ Green remained steadfast in his commitment to helping UNI basketball reach new heights.
UNI head coach Ben Jacobson said Green, who began taking 15-foot stationary shots in March, is making tremendous progress but is not all the way back, yet.
“AJ isn’t all the way to five-on-five yet,” Jacobson told the Courier this week. “He is doing some of the drills, but not doing contact drills.”
Prior to this season, Green had started in all 65 of UNI’s games over the previous two years.
Jacobson said Green has taken part in some one-on-one drills and hopefully in the upcoming weeks he will progress to two-on-two and three-on-three until AJ feels he’s ready to get back into five-on-five full activity.
“That could be three weeks, four weeks, five weeks but he is getting there,” Jacobson said. “Everything has gone well. The one area…in talking to everybody and I feel this is similar to other major injuries, surgeries is the explosion and quickness is not there yet. I think that is typical not only of this type of injury, but any injury.
“That is the piece AJ is working on. The final piece which is attacking the basket with explosive movements and the quick side-to-side movements. That takes time.
“Saying that, running, AJ looks good. He’s looked good in individual workouts,” finished Jacobson.
Seven weeks after having a procedure on his left hip, Green is scheduled to have a similar surgery on his right Tuesday in Colorado. UNI head coach Ben Jacobson confirmed the news Monday.
UNI has completed four weeks of practice. The Panthers worked out the first three weeks of June, took a week off and ramped up the activity after the July 4th weekend.
BACK IN TOWN: Sophomore Antwan Kimmons is back and has been practicing with the team since the start of June.
The guard from Oakdale, Minn. played in UNI’s first three games last year at the Crossover Tournament in Sioux Falls before deciding to take an indefinite leave from the team to help support his family through multiple challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He is doing great,” Jacobson said. “He has been a part of everything we have done. The first couple of weeks…when you’ve been away for an extended period of time there will be soreness and a little bit of rust which is expected.
“But he has been great. He brings an energy level…his personality is such that it really impacts the guys around him and impacts the team.”
Kimmons had played in all 34 games of his career prior to his leave of absence. In 31 games as a freshman, he averaged 2.8 points while recording 21 assists and 11 steals.
THE NEW GUYS: Jacobson said he has been impressed by the three incoming freshman – Michael Duax, Landon Wolf and Chase Courbat — in particular how they come prepared to work.
“They came in in good shape,” Jacobson. “That is key to get the most out of these eight weeks. Chase, Michael and Landon…what they did before they got here has been a real positive. What I will tell you is they are tremendous workers who listen and look you in the eye and turn around and work hard to do what you instruct them to do.”