For Daniel Green, Wake Forest’s starting center, the season was over before it started.
In the fourth quarter of a preseason game against Canada’s Brock University, Green jumped for a rebound and landed awkwardly. The 6-foot-10 sophomore plummeted to the floor in pain.
The next day, his worst fears were realized; Green tore his ACL, and had to miss the entire 2012-2013 season.
“It didn’t hit me right away,” the Colleyville, Texas native recounted, “I walked back to my room and it wasn’t until a few hours later that I felt terrible.”
As a freshman, Green played 27 games off the bench, averaging 1.4 points and 1.7 rebounds in 7.4 minutes. He displayed a refined skillset, but lacked the ACC body—listed generously at 210 pounds—to play consistent minutes.
Green worked tirelessly in the offseason, spending double-sessions on the basketball court and in the gym. He improved his shooting range past the foul line and gained 15 to 20 pounds of muscle. At the Triad Pro-Am in the summer, Green looked like a completely different player. He dominated the interior offensively and defensively, helping his team win the championship.
Teammates glow when they speak of Green’s work ethic. Senior point guard Spencer Jennings stated, “He is the hardest working kid I know. He made great strides in the offseason.” With seven freshmen joining the Deacs this season, “The Silent Assassin” led with his relentless drive.
Many fans and media members predicted a breakout year for Green, but three weeks before opening night, his year was finished. Head coach Jeff Bzdelik said to the Winston-Salem Journal, “I just feel so bad for the young man because he had worked so hard. Life happens, as we all know in sports.”
Some players may have felt sorry for themselves, but not Green. He used his struggles as his motivation and the team’s recent failures as his inspiration. “I had to stay positive,” Green says, “I’m trying to get healthy and get ready for a breakthrough season.” Following surgery, he immediately started on a rehab regimen four times a week for an hour and a half per session.
However, Green struggled watching his teammates take the court without him, “It was really hard. The team was young and I could’ve made a difference.”
But from the sideline, he learned a lot about his teammates, the game and himself, “Life can be thrown at you so quick. You never know when it can be your last game,” Green reflected on the team, “We needed more leadership on the court. We didn’t know how to play through adversity. I think I can handle [adversity] better now.”
The Demon Deacons finished 13-18, tied for 10th in the ACC. Their biggest flaw? They lacked the frontcourt size and strength that Green provides, finishing 261st in the nation with 32.5 rebounds a game.
Less than six months after the injury, Green still wears a brace each day and experiences some soreness in the knee but he has begun participating in basketball-related drills and agility training. He expects to be at full strength by July.
When asked about his goals for next season, Green didn’t hesitate, “Get to the NCAA Tournament and possibly win it all.”
For individual goals, he kept using the word “breakthrough.” But for people that know Green, this would come as no surprise.
Because people that know Daniel Green expect him to break through.