TEMPE, Ariz. – While working his way back to the floor, Arizona State junior Trent Lockett has become a home health practitioner.
When Lockett is not taking treatment for a severely sprained right ankle at Wells Fargo Arena, he ministers to himself at home. He places his ankle in a cooled sleeve that is attached to an electronic device that applies pressure to the joint. He props his leg up and lets the machine do its work, in the same way he has tried to keep his spirits up while missing the last six games.
“It’s been tough, but there’s nothing I can do about it, so I’m not going to get frustrated over it,” Lockett said.
Arizona State’s most talented and necessary player, Lockett said Tuesday that he expects to return this weekend for games against Utah and Colorado. While coach Herb Sendek said Lockett’s leadership has been invaluable in the locker room and at team functions since a Jan. 14 injury, his absence from the court has had a lot to do with the fact that the Sun Devils (7-16, 3-8) have lost five of their last six games.
“That’s a devastating loss. He makes a big difference in their lineup,” said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, whose team held ASU to 34 percent shooting in a 68-44 victory last Thursday.
Lockett leads ASU in scoring (13.9 points a game), rebounding (6.4), three-point field goal percentage (.424) and steals (26) while averaging 35 minutes a game, but it seems unlikely that he would be able to play that much in his first weekend back.
“I don’t know what to expect,” Sendek said, “because we’re in excess of three weeks since he has done anything. We’re going to have to take it one step at a time and see how he feels, what his conditioning is like.
“Riding a stationary bike is a far cry from playing in Pac-12 basketball. There is no conditioning that perfectly simulates what you do in basketball. I expect we’ll have a very gradual progression continue, like we’ve had so far. He’s gone from a boot (on his foot) to do doing nothing to starting to get back and do some things on the court. We’ll have to take it a day at a time. With back-to-back games, that is another factor.
“At least the compass is heading do north.”
The numbers proclaim his value. ASU averages 64 points and shoots 47 percent when Lockett plays. When he does not, those numbers are 52.2 and 41. ASU has a 3.1 rebounding edge per game with him and is outrebounded by 4.1 without him. Opponents have shot 46.2 percent from the field in the last six games compared with 41.4 when Lockett was healthy.
Lockett did some non-contact work in practice Monday, the first time he has practiced since the injury, in preparation for a Thursday night return against Utah (5-18, 2-9). The Sun Devils play Colorado (16-7, 8-3) on Saturday afternoon.
“I reacted pretty well, especially compared to when I tried to run on it about a week and a half ago. It was very sore and it swelled back up (then). I was happy with the way it came back today. I’m getting better every day. Last week or so, it’s made some real good progress,” Lockett said.
Lockett had taken over at the primary point guard in the four games before his injury, after Keala King was dismissed from the team, and Sendek said he expects Lockett to play some point guard again, even as Chris Colvin has had some of his better games as a starter recently.
Lockett had 23 points and five assists in a 67-58 loss to Oregon on Jan. 12 before suffering his ankle injury with 10 minutes remaining in a 76-66 victory over Oregon State. He had eight points, seven assists and five rebounds in 24 minutes against the Beavers, hoping at the time that the injury would be a minor inconvenience.
“I was planning on going to get a shot and coming back into the game, but when we took the tape off it kind of ballooned up and that X-ed out that opportunity,” said Lockett, who suffered a fractured ankle in the ninth grade and a torn meniscus his junior year in high school. “It was obviously longer than I expected, but there was nothing I could do about that.”
Colorado beat ASU by 15 and Utah beat the Sun Devils by 21 the third week of January, the first two games Lockett missed. Even if Lockett returns this weekend, the Sun Devils might not have a full roster.
Freshman forward Jonathan Gilling suffered a sprained left thumb in the Stanford game last weekend and was hit in the hand in practice Monday. “I think that is going to sideline him for at least a day or two,” Sendek said.
Gilling and center Jordan Bachynski have stepped up their games recently.
“What we need is everybody playing at or near their highest level of capabilities,” Sendek said.