Watching Blake Jolivette blow by a defender after an ankle-breaking crossover is jaw-dropping. The fact that he’s played in any games this season is even more jaw-dropping.
Six months after tearing his ACL, spraining and partially tearing his MCL and bruising and dislocating his knee cap, the senior made his season debut Dec. 11 at practice. Only six months and seven days separated the day Jolivette had surgery to repair his knee and the day he stepped on the floor against Hampton University.
The originally scheduled timetable for him to come back was six to eight months. However, AU Head Coach Jeff Jones said in a December interview that the timetable for his guard’s return looked bleak when the injury first occurred.
“When the injury initially occurred and when he first started in the rehabilitation process, I don’t think there was any thought on my part, or on his, that he would be back in the fold as early as he is, that he would be rejoining us this season on the court,” Jones said.
The first time Jolivette rejoined his team on the court for a game came only a week after his practice debut. He played 26 minutes in his season debut.
“Originally, I was supposed to play only 12 or so minutes,” Jolivette said.“Physically, I was a little winded, but mentally, I was glad to be back out.”
The senior credited his impressive comeback to the people around him, the support from his girlfriend Kristianna George, his parents Annette and Brian Jolivette, friends, teammates and AU Head Athletic Trainer Sean Dash.
“He’s earned an awful lot of respect from me,” Jones said a couple of months ago. “To see how hard he’s worked to get back as quickly as he has. And he’s certainly made a positive impact on our team.”
That positive impact can be seen both on and off the court. On the court, Jolivette gives the Eagles another ball handler and a player who can drive the ball to the basket, two things the Eagles were painfully lacking. He also gives AU the ability to play more man-to-man defense, something AU was unable to do before his return.
Jolivette also brings valuable attributes to the locker room, like leadership, the ability to lighten the mood and, as Blake puts it, “unprecedented dance moves.” When he was injured, it was harder to share those qualities with the team.
“I was obviously still a part of the team,” Jolivette said. “But I wasn’t out there going through what they were going through. So it was kinda me looking from the outside in, and now that I’m actually in the trenches with the guys, I have more of a say.”
Jones has noticed a new aspect this season that his senior guard has brought to the team off the court.
“I think this particular year the thing that Blake has done is shown the guys what it means to care,” Jones said. “He could have very easily kind of been discouraged and not really pushed forward in terms of his rehab.”
The guard with the knee-high socks and flashy moves has brought more to the Eagles this season than any box score can cover. He’s brought skill, an aggressive mentality and of course the dance moves. In just six months, he’s gone from having a injured knee to making defenders’ knees quiver.