Quaker Valley grad recovers from life-changing operation, returns to court at Guilford College
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Ben Stevenson had grown accustomed to the pain in his knee, a typical hindrance for someone involved in basketball for so many years.
The 2011 Quaker Valley graduate remembers the pain starting in eighth grade, but he battled through.
That battle continued during his career with the Quakers, when as a sophomore, he had two holes drilled in his femur to combat a condition called osteochondritis dissecans, where four bones from his left femur broke off causing major pain and discomfort.
He went on to become a four-year letter winner who was all-section as a senior when he led the team in scoring, steals and rebounds as a team captain.
But the pain continued, even after graduation.
Doctors suggested a life-changing operation to merge parts of a donor's femur with his own, but it didn't come easy.
Stevenson had to wait for a donor, one who was at least 18, had strong bones and whose bone structure would react well within his own body.
On Dec. 23, 2011, he had the operation in La Jolla, Calif. After six months of recovery, including two months without lifting anything, he was ready to get back on the court.
“I could still play through the pain, I was used to it. There was some pretty grueling pain,” said Stevenson, who just completed a redshirt freshman season at NCAA Division III Guilford College. “I adjusted my body when I was experiencing the pain and now I'm adjusting back. I would turn my body to shield my knee from contact. I can dribble well with both hands. I was only able to dribble with my left. I couldn't go to my right. Now, I can go dribble with both hands.”
Going into this most recent basketball season, Stevenson set a few goals that seem to be ordinary to any other basketball player trying to make a team. But for Stevenson, nothing came as easy immediately after his surgery.
“My first expectation was to get through the running and the preseason 20 suicides that started in August on every Monday and Wednesday,” Stevenson said. “I got through that. Then I had to get through two-a-days. I wanted to see if my knee can handle the pressure and pain. It held up, and I was really happy about that. Finally, I wanted to make the varsity team and not the junior varsity team.”
Stevenson averaged 2.6 points and 1.4 rebounds in 21 games off the bench this season with Guilford (19-8, 10-6), which competes in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. Stevenson scored a season-high 12 points, including three 3-pointers, against Methodist University on Jan. 2.
“For him to be playing basketball, it's just amazing,” Guilford coach Tom Palombo said. “To undergo that kind of procedure and participate in our program at a high level it's an amazing feat. It's good to see him get to where he is now after all he has been through. His role, as well as others, changed as the year went along. He isn't going to use the knee issue as an excuse. He should feel he had a successful season.”
After going through a life-changing event, in the end, Stevenson was surprised with the amount of playing time he received this year. He also felt a sense of self-gratification.
“It was good to play at home in front of all the fans that saw me in crutches last year,” Stevenson said. “For those who may have thought I might not play ever or be nothing, it was good to prove people wrong and win games against good teams and tough competition.”
While his knee continues to get stronger, Stevenson credits the stability inside his head for getting him through the tough times.
“For anyone who goes through a major surgery, it's all mental,” he said. “It's all about hard work and the want to get better. It's all about how hard you rehab. It's huge.”
Just like his will to succeed.
Andrew John is a freelance writer.
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