Brannen Greene remembers awakening from three-hour hip surgery April 16 in Nashville’s Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, facing the realization he’d be on crutches eight weeks and be away from basketball more than five months.
“My plan,” the Kansas University guard from Juliette, Georgia, said after Friday’s 109-72 season-opening victory over Northern Colorado in Allen Fieldhouse, “was to work as hard as I could to come back and have a solid junior season, to do whatever I can for this team.”
He’s off to a good start in making his plan a reality.
Just three days after being unable to play in KU’s second and final exhibition game because of discomfort in the hip, Greene lit up the fieldhouse scoreboard to the tune of 18 points — one off a career high. He tied a career high by sinking five threes in five tries, copying last year’s performance against Georgetown, and also had a dunk en-route to perfect 6-of-6 marksmanship (1-of-2 from free throw line) in just 14 minutes.
Images from Friday night's game between the Jayhawks and Bears at Allen Fieldhouse
In all, the Greene-led Jayhawks hit 15 threes in 26 tries, second-most threes made in a game in KU history. KU iced a school-record 16 treys against Baylor on Jan, 25, 2005.
“I felt good in warm-ups,” Greene said. “What I do is shoot. I was just ready. Whenever my time came, I was going to come in and do what I did. It feels to do well in a game. I’ve been back a while playing against these guys (since late September). I’m not lacking in confidence. I have confidence in my ability and know what I can do. Luckily the shots fell.”
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self answers questions from the media following KU's season-opening, 109-72 victory over Northern Colorado at Allen Fieldhouse.
Greene said his hip, which was operated on by Tennessee Titans surgeon J.W. Thomas Byrd, “usually does feel fine” and rarely locks as it did Tuesday. He was able to play in KU’s initial exhibition contest.
“He was anxious to get back on the court. He did everything he could to get back,” KU senior Perry Ellis said of Greene’s efforts during rehab. Ellis, by the way, scored 16 points off 5-of-7 shooting on a night KU hit 55.7 percent of its shots to Northern Colorado’s 39.3 percent. The 109 points was third best mark in a game in the Self era and most since 109 against Texas Tech in 2008.
Kansas basketball players Brannen Greene, Devonté Graham and Perry Ellis describe the enjoyment the Jayhawks had in scoring 109 points in their season opener against Northern Colorado.
“Everybody played well. Brannen was on fire,” said Self, who personally congratulated Greene in the locker room on having an outstanding opener.
Of Greene’s long rehab which involved working out despite periods of intense pain, Self said: “Yes, Brannen worked hard. Brannen’s done a nice job for the most part in rehab. Let’s not get too excited and talk about it after Tuesday when we play a team capable of winning the Big 10 (Michigan State, 9 p.m., in Chicago) as opposed to talking about a game tonight with no pressure. When you have a big lead everybody shoots it better. Let’s see in a tight game that comes down to the last couple possessions.
“Brannen has done a nice job,” Self continued. “He has good days and bad days (physically). He’s not 100 percent. Tonight he showed what he can do shooting the ball.”
Greene confessed that he felt as if he had the hot hand Friday. He made four of his threes the final half, a half in which he had 14 of his 18 points.
“I can kind of let it go. Whenever you get into a rhythm you can pop the shot a little bit more. You’ve got a feel for the hoop,” Greene said. “It feels a little bit different once you get on a roll. That’s what me and Svi (Mykhailiuk, five points with one three in 16 minutes) do. We’re both great shooters. I’m sure he’ll get it rolling, too.”
Greene credited his teammates on a night Devonté Graham had a career-best eight assists and Frank Mason III tied a career high with nine dimes.
“The key was to play fast, come out with energy,” Greene said. “The defense picks up and we feed each other. Perry feeds. Devonté feeds. Frank feeds. It’s a trickle effect.”
Greene can only imagine more performances like Friday’s, just seven months after he woke in a daze in that Nashville facility.
“I definitely remember when I had it,” he said of the surgery. “I remember shaking the doctor’s hand and a minute later I’m going out. It was the craziest thing. He was in an all black suit and all of a sudden he’s ready to go. That’s all I remember ... going out and waking up, nobody being there,” he added with a smile, hoping he’s able to avoid such a surgery again during his hoop career.
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