By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– Imagine in your second AAU tournament going into your sophomore year, coming off of playing nine minutes at the Final Site in the 4A playoffs a few months earlier in their third-place finish at State and a freak accident happened.
Stayton’s Jacob Axmaker was making a save, making sure he wasn’t to be called for an over-and-back call in the first half of an AAU game when a kid dove for the ball. Every kid has done it in basketball, going after the ball, nothing unordinary.
For Axmaker however, the Eagles sophomore’s pivot foot got stuck under his opposition and he rolled over.
The result: Broken Tibia and torn TaloFibular and CalcaneoFibular ligaments.
It would take four-to-six weeks for the bone to heal, but 18-24 weeks for the ligaments to heal. Pushing the sophomore up against the clock for this past season.
“For a while it looked like I wasn’t gonna be able to play the first few games of the preseason then I started shock therapy on my ankle and that help tremendously,” said Axmaker. “I made huge jumps in the last few weeks before the season and was cleared for play about a day or two before tryout started.”
If he wanted to play this past year, it was just a matter of getting it done.
The long recovery process challenged Axmaker. Effort and desire was what he credited in making this return possible. The ankle gave him issues that required stretching and breaking up the scar tissue so he could move the joint again.
“I wasn’t able to move it after I got out of the boot so it took lots of time to get the range of motion to get back to normal,” said Axmaker. “After it was strong enough and mobile enough to start walking on it without crutches I started using a underwater treadmill. That’s what helped me recover the best and the fastest.”
Recovery at this point built up his confidence. About 20-percent of the remaining process was just that mental game. The longest thing to get back towards even semi-normal was his range of motion and change of direction unexpectedly.
“My mindset during recovery was pretty much just grind, grind, grind,” starts Axmaker. “I wanted to get back to playing as fast as I can but also knew I needed to be smart about it. My main goal was to get back to about 80% for the season and I was able to do that.”
By the time he was cleared, it was the 22-week mark and he was able to tip-off the season against Estacada December 4. Coming to fruition of all his hard work and sacrifice to get back to even be healthy let-lone game ready.
The process taught Axmaker how much getting back on the court meant for him entering their season opening win that night.
“I was never more excited to do something in my entire life then I was to play that game. It felt amazing and good knowing that all the recovery and hard work paid off,” said Axmaker. “It just made me realize how much I enjoy playing and how blessed I am to be able to just walk and play the game I love.”
Stayton, after losing four crucial Seniors from last year squad, opened some eyes in the Oregon West Conference by going 17-8 and 7-5 in the OWC. The biggest moment came when they took down Banks in the opening round of the 4A playoffs 52-50 to return to Forest Grove for the second-straight year.
But, that would be the final game of their campaign together when the cancellations due to Coronavirus hit the day they were suppose to play their Quarterfinal game against Henley.
“I think we did really good this year. Unfortunately, (the) season had to end in a horrible way. I think everyone stepped up this year and played their roles in our success. Everyone got along on the team too as well which helped a lot with chemistry,” said Axmaker.
Entering his off-season and preparing for his Junior year coming off being named Honorable Mentioned in the OWC, Axman knows he has a lot of work to do to improve after his comeback.
“I think this year my speed and quickness along with my dribbling took a huge hit from this injury,” said Axmaker. “I’ve been doing lots of sprints and lateral quickness drill this off season and have been doing two-, three- dribble workouts a day trying to get back to how I used to be able to handle the ball.”