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Back injury may end Spellman’s HS career early

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His voice cracking and cheeks moist, Keith Spellman admitted his high school career may be over sooner than expected.

The Thomas Jefferson boys’ basketball team star guard could hardly walk after the Orange Wave’s 79-65 loss to Hopkins (Minn.) in the Nike Super Six Invitational at Fordham University Friday night.

He re-aggravated a meddlesome back injury in the first quarter, and never returned. Coach Lawrence Pollard said Spellman is likely done for the year and will certainly not be available for Sunday’s Brooklyn borough final against Lincoln at Long Island University. Pollard said a trainer on hand told Spellman his vertebra is offset, causing back spasms. The doctor said it would take at least a month to heal.

Spellman said he re-injured his back after scoring his only basket of the game, when Hopkins center knocked him to the floor.

“I feel like the right side (of my back) is lower than my left side,” the senior said.

The season started out so well for Spellman, the leading scorer in Jefferson school history, and the Orange Wave. They beat CHSAA power Bishop Loughlin and won the first two meetings with Boys & Girls.

Jefferson was thriving, led by Spellman, who was still scoring close to 20 points per game, while sharing the ball, playing better defense and rebounding like a forward. The 6-foot-2 two guard averaged 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists during the regular season, leading Jefferson to a second-place finish in Brooklyn AA, the PSAL’s best division.

“I feel sorry for the kid,” Pollard said. “To go through this now is not fair.”

Spellman injured his back during the Tampa Hoops Classic in late December and has never been the same. He has played through the pain, not sitting out once. He even refused to see a doctor for fear he would be told to sit out the rest of the year.

“I’ve been trying to play through it, but it gets worse and worse,” Spellman said.

If Spellman is done for the year, it would mean more responsibility for junior Marcus Romain and sophomores Corwin Austin, Eric Turpin Jr. and Dontay Payne in support of stars Davontay Grace and Joel (Air Jamaica) Wright. Pollard was unhappy with his entire team after the loss Friday night, saying “we got punked.”

“We have to adjust and get points through our (offensive sets),” Romain said. “We have to play more like a team.”

If Spellman is lost for the playoffs, it would be the second impact player Jefferson has lost. Junior guard Dave Coley briefly came back after undergoing minor knee surgery, but wasn’t himself.

“It’s a lot to overcome,” Pollard said, referring to the two players he envisioned as his team’s two best guards. “Everybody’s not made to the be the showstopper. Most people are made to be backup dancers.”

Spellman, though, isn’t ready to call it quits. He’ll undergo treatment over the next few weeks. This was supposed to be the year, he said, Jefferson would get to Madison Square Garden for the city championship game.

“I’m gonna fight through this,” he promised. “I’m gonna get back on the court for the playoffs.”

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