Lukas Poderis is trying to make up for lost time, but it’s not going to be easy.
Poderis, a fifth-year senior forward on East Tennessee State’s basketball team, is returning from a ruptured Achilles tendon. Just when he was starting to feel fine and getting back on the court, he suffered a knee injury that is likely to nag him for much of the coming season.
“I have to play through it,” Poderis said Saturday morning, before the Bucs’ first of two practices. “It’s different each day. One day, it’s alright and another day it’s horrible. I have to keep playing. It’s my last year.”
Last year, Poderis suffered the Achilles injury during a preseason scrimmage. It forced him to sit out what turned into a tumultuous season that finished with a 10-22 record for the Bucs.
“It was hard,” Poderis said. “Especially with all the stuff happening and I had to sit and watch, couldn’t do anything about it.”
With Poderis back, even if it’s in limited action, ETSU’s defense will be better.
“He can really defend,” said ETSU coach Murry Bartow, who has called Poderis his team’s best inside defender. “He’s really smart and anchors your D in the paint. He’s got a lot of experience. He’s a fifth-year guy, been in a lot of games, and he’s got size. He’s every bit of 6-8 and 240 pounds.”
Poderis has shown a few flashes of offensive ability. His best games -- a pair of 14-point performances -- have come against USC-Upstate for some reason. He averaged 4.0 points a game during his junior season.
“He’s not a guy that’s gonna get you 20, but he can really defend,” Bartow said. “He can score some, but that’s not his biggest asset. He’s a better offensive rebounder than defensive rebounder, which is pretty unusual.”
Poderis said he didn’t think the knee was hurt too bad when it happened.
“I thought it was sprained and I kept playing,” he said. “Then the MRI showed a fracture.”
The knee has healed enough to allow Poderis to return to practice. How effective he’ll be when the season begins remains to be seen.
“He’s still a little banged up,” Bartow said. “It’s just kind of a day-to-day situation. He’s not 100 percent, but he can go and he’s fighting through it.
“It’s something I just think, based on listening to the doctors, we’re gonna have to deal with all year. I think it’ll improve. We’ve all got to be smart, maybe sit him out a practice here or there. We have to monitor it all year.”
Despite the injury, Poderis says he’s looking forward to going out in style.
“I like this team,” he said. “Everybody wants to work and is happy to be here. We all get along with each other. We’re gonna be good. We should do some things.
“I’ll be alright.”