Key returns after a long recover

By Khobi Price

The process of getting back onto the basketball court came with many challenges for senior forward Jaylen Key.

After redshirting and missing the entire 2017-18 season due to a torn labrum and dislocated shoulder he suffered June 2017, Key has returned to the NIU men’s basketball team and tallied 21 points, 10 rebounds and shot over 50 percent from the floor during his two contests with the Huskies.

Key said he knew his return to the playing floor would emotional for him. He had to get surgery on his left shoulder and endure a six-month recovery process before he could start playing with the team again in practices.

Key said he told Head Coach Mark Montgomery that he wanted to redshirt the 2017-18 campaign shortly before the Huskies began Mid-American Conference play. He said he wanted to take the right precautions for his body and basketball career.

Key said he didn’t want to come halfway through the season and be out of rhythm or be a weight to the team; he wanted to uplift the team even if that meant he did not play.

“In the beginning, I couldn’t really do much so the rehab was really tedious and it was the little stuff that took a long time,” Key said. “It was all about remaining focused and, I know it sounds cliché, but trusting the process. It was all just going there everyday and trusting that I was going to get better, it was just going to take a while before I got back on the court.”

Key said his love for the game motivated him to power through the obstacles his injury and rehab presented. He said knew rehab would get him a step closer to playing the game he’s been around for most of his life.

The Milwaukee native was not able to play when the Huskies faced-off against Marquette University Dec. 18 because he was still rehabbing from his surgery. He said being able to play in his hometown was a moment he dreamed about and not being able to do so made the process even more difficult to go through.

“When I knew I had to have surgery, I knew I was going back home to Marquette to play. So, when I had the surgery, I knew I was going to miss that game. That was just something that was hard for me to go through because its my dad alma mater and going back home period was something I always dreamed about doing and I never got the chance to, so that was probably one of the hardest part of my injury. It was hard to watch.”

Key’s said he regained valuable lessons during the 2017-18 campaign even though he did not play.

He learned how important it was to be even keeled during a long season, gained a greater idea of where his teammates want the ball and the game has slowed down for him mentally after only being able to watch for a full season.

Key does not have just have to be a spectator anymore. He is fully healthy and is ready to contribute to the team.

Key said he is a versatile forward who is capable of scoring from anywhere on the floor, rebound, play defense and will do whatever it takes to help his team win.

“Jaylen brings such a different style to the game,” senior forward Levi Bradley, who Key has known since they were 12-years-old, said. “He’s another leader on the floor and figure all the young guys can look up to.

Key said he’s happy to get the first games out of the way because of the excitement that had built up inside him.

He said he wants to just get back to his game and have the focus on the team and the success it expects of itself.

“All we could use last year with Jaylen is his voice,” Montgomery said. “He voiced his opinion, he voiced his encouragement to his teammates so I think he’s going to hit the ground running this year.”