March 31, 2008

Polynice plays through the pain

During the Rebels' 85-75 overtime win over Nebraska in the second round of the NIT, Eniel Polynice grabbed the ball in the open court.

He dribbled towards the Ole Miss students inside Tad Smith Coliseum, and they prepared to celebrate another Rebel dunk.

As Polynice hit the paint and planted, he came to a very humbling realization.

"Man," he said with the disappointment in his voice lingering almost a week later, "I couldn't dunk."

The injured left knee that kept him from playing in the first round of the NIT has limited the sophomore guard's mobility. But in his two games back, it's not kept him from producing.

In wins over Nebraska and Virginia Tech, Polynice's scored 24 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out 13 assists, helping Ole Miss (24-10) advance to Madison Square Garden to face Ohio State (22-13) Tuesday night at 8.

"It affects me a lot. I can't move the ways I want to," Polynice said. "I'm trying fight through it, move the best way I can and try to use other parts of my body to move. I've never had an injury before. I've never even had an ankle sprain or nothing."

A MRI revealed Polynice tore the meniscus, a part cartilage, in his left knee, and Polynice played through the injury, wearing a brace for the first time in the SEC Tournament.

Polynice said he feared the worst when he heard the news.

"I was scared at first," he said. "The doc told me things didn't look good. I thought it was the ACL at first, but when he told me I could still play on it, I wasn't too afraid."

Polynice is likely headed for offseason surgery.

Once Andy Kennedy got the news, he wanted to be 100 percent clear keeping the versatile guard on the floor wouldn't endanger Polynice's future.

"The main thing was we didn't want to put the kid in jeopardy," Kennedy said. "The doctors told us it was a pain tolerance thing, and that he wasn't going to do anything to harm in any further."

But Polynice had never had to play through this kind of pain before, and the stiffness and soreness were too much, sidelining him against UC Santa Barbara in the first round of the NIT.

"I tried to get into his head and tell him he wasn't hurt," freshman Chris Warren said. "He missed a win and probably felt like he wasn't part of it."

And, as it turned out, watching Ole Miss win without him was plenty tough.

"It was tough. I've never sat out a game in my life," Polynice said. "I just had to hope my team won so I could come back."

The Rebels gave Polynice another chance to get on the floor, and he's made the most of it. The process of dealing with the injury has helped Polynice mature, Kennedy said.

"He didn't know how to deal with it," Kennedy said. "Once he learned how to deal with it and saw he could still be productive, his mindset changed."

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