Klee's Corner - Bertrand on knee surgery

Klee's Corner - Bertrand on knee surgery

-For Joseph Bertrand's HQ interview when he signed with Illinois, click here.

CHAMPAIGN - How does Joseph Bertrand go from the bottom of the totem pole to the king's throne?

He returns to Sterling. He's not just a freshman in his hometown; he's the B.M.O(ff).C. The local sports section regularly features the Illinois guard, and Bertrand can't visit Wal-Mart without being peppered with questions from fans.

"They'll start the conversation off with, 'How's school going?'" Bertrand said Wednesday. "Then they'll move into the basketball questions: 'How you playing? How much time are you going to play?'

"I give the same answer: 'It depends on how practice goes.'"

These days he has another question to answer: How's the knee? A 6-foot-5, 180-pound guard, Bertrand underwent surgery a week ago today to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee.

So, one more time: how's the knee?

"They're saying 4-to-6 weeks, but I'm going to try to get back sooner than that," he said from a courtside seat at Ubben Basketball Complex, his right knee wrapped. "They're saying I'm showing a lot of progress."

On that timetable he would return to the court in time as early as Illini Madness (Oct. 16) or as late as the Orange & Blue Scrimmage (Oct. 25). A three-time dunk champion in high school, Bertrand joked he would prefer to return for Illini Madness, but acknowledged he probably won't be allowed to compete as a dunker.

"I'm going to try to get back in it. It's coming up pretty soon though," he said. "I don't think the knee will affect my jumping or anything as much."

Former Sterling boys coach Peter Goff said Bertrand missed one game due to injury in his prep career - but not for a knee injury. Bertrand said the right knee bothered him one other time.

"It locked up on me. But it popped in for me later that night."

That didn't happen the second time he felt pain.

"I was in an individual practice and I was running down the court. I got tripped and I fell and it bent too far and I couldn't straighten it back," Bertrand said. "The doctor said it was my meniscus. They took X-rays and it showed like it was real torn up."

Bertrand missed the first day of full-team workouts, on Tuesday. Up to the day he was injured, the guard showed the promise of someone that could contribute as a freshman, particularly in a relatively thin backcourt. A superb athlete, Bertrand has fine court vision and he willingly attacks the rim, two of his strengths. Other times he was too loose with ball or tried to make the highlight pass instead of the easy one, signs that he's still a rookie.

"In transition he was probably our best player," senior forward Dominique Keller said. "If he worked on his ballhandling a little more and got a little bit stronger, I really believe he's the sleeper, the darkhorse, the most underrated (player) in the class. I think people looked at him and said, 'He'll be good in two or three years.' I really felt like Joe in his first or second year, he would be one of the best guards we have."

-Paul Klee