Mustang Freshman Nick Hanneken A Warrior Throughout His Ordeal To Overcome And Recover From Torn ACL Surgery
By DAVE SCHABELL
Nick Hanneken has heard all of the cliches – Life Isn’t Fair – This Will Make You Stronger – Control What You Can Control – Hard Work Will Pay Off – Blessing in Disguise, and on and on and on. But to a fourteen year old who grew up competing on the field of play and knows little else that truly excites him, he has certainly had to ask himself over the past six months – Why Me? He probably didn’t care to hear all of the philosophy being spewed in his direction as a means of well intended encouragement – he just wanted to play.
On Thursday night, December 7th in a road freshmen basketball game at Beechwood High School that to his teammates was just another one of the twenty-some that the team will play this season, to Nick Hanneken, it was a shining moment. The night that all of his hard work did pay off – the night he returned to the Mustang lineup for some serious minutes in his first athletic event as a Brossart High School Freshman.
We probably should have stood when he entered the game, but it didn’t matter to Nick. His wish of returning to competition was finally granted.
In early June of 2006, Nick Hanneken was one of the incoming freshmen who was invited to attend the Mustangs Summer Team Basketball Camp at Coastal Carolina University. At some point while competing in a Junior Varsity event, his life changed, he tore his Anterior Crucible Ligament, more commonly known in the business as an ACL. The same ACL that Carson Palmer of the Cincinnati Bengals tore during the playoff game with Pittsburgh in the fall of 2005. It wasn’t until July 18th of this year that Nick was operated on and had the ligament re-attached before beginning intensive therapy to begin his long, painstaking, road back to recovery.
Nick is not any run-of-the-mill athlete. During his grade school days he played basketball, soccer, and baseball, including select soccer, and AAU basketball. Nicholas (as his parents call him) was one of the best and would have certainly made his mark by now in the Brossart soccer program, and would also be a key member of this freshmen basketball team, had this misfortune not befallen him.
Nick was a standout soccer player, he was looking to play “up” in Coach Brian Goller’s soccer program with the JVs and hopefully join Freshman Ryan Statdmiller playing with the varsity. But while his buddies were practicing on the soccer pitch, Nick was attending rehab three days a week and doing excercises at home daily. This didn’t stop him from attending soccer practices – he made every one, and was there watching and cheering on his freshmen teammates as they competed without him. He even made it to basketball open gyms – but only to sit on the sidelines and again watch his future teammates compete. Nick is a self-made player, who is blessed with outstanding natural athletic ability. When 100%, he has lightning speed, very good hops, and is phsically strong. He shows up at practice with his game face on and gives his absolute best efforts in whatever sport happens to be in-season.
He is a fierce competitor who thrives on athletic competition and always looks forward to the next day’s challenges. With all that being said, it stands to reason that being sidelined by such a debilitating injury had to eat away at the very core of his existance. Never has he publicly bemoaned his fate, nor sought sympathy from his friends and teammates. Nick chose to suffer in silence. In addition to dealing with the burden of thearapy and missed competiton, he has always maintained a strong, positive attitude, and spoke freely of his injury when questioned, and was always fully cognizant of the doctor’s orders that he would follow religiously in order to become whole and free to compete once again in the shortest possible timeframe.
It is nothing short of amazing that Nick has received clearance from his doctor for a total ACL tear, partial MCL tear, and other assorted and sundry injuries to his knee in the reletively short period of four and a half months. It is a tribute to his work-ethic and the painstaken efforts that he put forth that has brought him to this day. It is also testament to the resiliance of youth. The Thomas H. Seither Sportscenter can be a lonely place to practice on the freshman team’s graveyard shift. It is even a more lonely place when you sit on the sidelines doing exercises while your teammates are hooping it up in the background. Nick accepted his fate and went on about the business of growing stronger and getting better every day.
God only knows how well Nick’s overall knee recovery will be in the long run – the doctors say that it is stronger now than ever. But based on Nick’s work ethic, athleticism, and mental toughness, we would hope that before his four years at Brossart are over, his name will appear in a lot of headlines and that he will go down in the annals of Brossart sports history as one of its best. Hopefully he and the rest of his class can grab a state championship or two during their stay, and that the memories of a damaged knee will fade into obscurity, clouded out by the sweet sensations of victory and successful accomplishments. The reminders will always be there. The scars, the knee brace, and the excercises will be there for the rest of his life, but for now I’m sure it is a fair exchange and a far cry from the inability to compete.
On Thursday night at Beechwood, Nick launched a three-point attempt from the right wing. It missed its mark, high and to the right – but caromed right through the center of the hoop – “Three for Nick Hanneken!!!”
God’s way of saying “Welcome Back.”
By Coach Dave Schabell With Contributions From Brian Rieger
December 8, 2006