NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa — Cordell Pemsl had a very productive freshman season with the Iowa basketball team last winter.
He averaged 8.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. He played in every game and started 14 times. He led the Big Ten and set a school record by shooting 61.7 percent from the field.
Imagine how good he might have been had he not played most of the season with two torn groin muscles.
Pemsl, whose high school career was speckled with major leg surgeries, suffered what was later diagnosed as a sports hernia in a November game against Virginia. He didn’t know the exact nature of the injury until after the season, but continued to play — and play well — for nearly four more months.
He underwent surgery in May and hopes to be ready to resume playing basketball in July, in time to join the Hawkeyes on an August trip to Germany.
“I don’t really have (a timetable) right now but I’m hoping for mid-July,’’ Pemsl said Sunday night after filling in as a substitute scorekeeper for Prime Time League games at the North Liberty Community Center. “I really want to play in Europe so the faster I can get back the better. I’m in no rush. If I can’t play in Europe, it’s no big deal. I’ll go and support the team but my main focus is to be ready for October and the start of the season.’’
Pemsl is no stranger to injuries. He tore the meniscus in his right knee twice during his career at Dubuque Wahlert and finally underwent a procedure in which doctors intentionally broke his leg in order to prevent continued knee problems.
The 6-foot-8 forward appeared to have gone through last season mostly injury-free, but it turns out he just was very adept at hiding an affliction that plagued him most of the year.
He first felt pain in his groin area during a Nov. 25 game against Virginia down in Florida and he didn’t have much time to recover for a game against Memphis less than 24 hours later.
“I could barely do layups in the layup line before the Memphis game. It hurt so bad,’’ Pemsl said. “We came back to Iowa City and I rehabbed a little bit. We thought I had just strained something so I just continued playing.’’
He actually made his first career start in the next game, on the road at Notre Dame, and made 8 of 9 shots from the field while scoring 18 points.
His game continued to progress. So did the pain.
“From there on out, I felt it every practice, every game,’’ Pemsl said. “Once I started getting loose and warmed up, it would go away a little bit but I always had that in the back of my mind. At the end of the season, I found out I had torn both my groins. So I guess I was playing on torn groins all season.’’
He said no one knew how much pain he was feeling and he said once he got warmed up and the adrenalin of playing kicked in, it didn’t affect him much. He made sure he began stretching 20 to 30 minutes before his teammates did prior to games.
“I’d always feel it the next day …’’ he said. “I’m just glad we got it figured out.’’
Pemsl consulted a groin specialist in Oklahoma, had the surgery in mid-May, was able to walk out of the hospital and has been walking ever since.
“There isn’t much rehab you can do other than just stretching and walking so the first three weeks I was just doing a lot of walking,’’ he said. “I was walking like three or four miles a day and I was just doing my sets of stretches. Now I’m in the gym and shooting. I’m doing some of the stationary stuff the guys are doing … Whenever they do something with running I just go and shoot. I have a rebounder and I just go and put up as many shots as I can in that time.’’
Pemsl wasn’t the only Iowa freshman who had a medical situation to address when the season ended. Jordan Bohannon, who broke the school record for assists and 3-point field goals by a freshman, experienced problems with plantar fasciitis during and after the Hawkeyes’ first-round NIT game against South Dakota.
He was able to play in the only game the Hawkeyes played after that, against TCU, then had a “procedure’’ done on his foot that forced him to sit out the month of May and the first part of June.
“That was really tough,’’ Bohannon said following his PTL game Sunday. “Normally, during those months I want to work on my game but I had to sit out. But honestly, it helped my foot a lot … Once I got back here last Monday, I got right back in the gym.’’