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November 19, 2007Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino called a special press conference Monday afternoon to announce that starting center David Padgett has fractured his kneecap and will likely miss the 2007-08 season. Padgett, a 6-11 senior from Reno, Nev., was elected the team captain the last two seasons.
"Well, as you can imagine when we called this (press conference) it likely wasn't good news," Pitino began the press conference by saying. "David Padgett's career is probably coming to an end. He fractured his kneecap and - you know, obviously we are all devastated for David."
Padgett appeared to be injured with just over three minutes left in the first half of No. 6 Louisville's 84-53 win over Jackson State Sunday. His knee hit against another player's leg, and he came off the court limping at the next timeout.
He was escorted to the locker room shortly before halftime and didn't come back out with the team to warm up for the second half. As the second half started, Padgett came out from the locker room with a large ice pack on his right knee. He sat on the bench for the rest of the game.
After the game, Pitino said Padgett had bumped his knee and it had "swelled up". Pitino didn't think it was a serious injury at the time, but wanted to make sure Padgett got an MRI just in case the damage was worse than expected.
Monday afternoon the MRI results returned the bad news. According to UofL officials, X-rays and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test taken at Jewish Hospital revealed a non-displaced fracture of his right patella. The injury will take at least 10 weeks to heal or may require surgery to repair.
"This young man has worked so hard to come back from all these surgeries he's had, and you can just imagine how he feels today," Pitino said. "I just had a lengthy conversation with him now."
Padgett scored nine points and had five rebounds in 12 minutes of playing time Sunday before leaving the game. In Louisville's first game of the season, a 104-69 win over Hartford, Padgett scored 10 points in just 14 minutes before sitting out the rest of the game.
After the Hartford game, Pitino said he was resting the big man so that he would be ready for Louisville's upcoming road trip to Las Vegas for the Findlay Toyota Invitational. The Cards will face UNLV Wednesday night at 9 p.m. in a traditional road game, then square off against BYU Friday night at 9 p.m. before facing the winner of No. 1 North Carolina and Old Dominion Saturday.
Padgett was Louisville's most experienced player, having transferred from Kansas after his freshman season when current UNC coach Roy Williams left the Jayhawks.
A former McDonald's All-American, he was a preseason All-Big East Conference selection and is among the top 50 players on the preseason watch list for the Naismith Trophy. Last season, Padgett averaged 9.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and blocked 50 shots in earning All-Big East Conference second team honors.
Pitino was visibly shaken when he broke the news to the gathered news media. While Padgett is likely done for the season, Pitino said he did see a scenario in which the senior could possibly play for Louisville again. Pitino said if everything heals perfectly on its own, Padgett could be healed enough to return just in time for the NCAA Tournament.
Another option could give Padgett a sixth season of eligibility. Pitino said the University if also going to petition the NCAA for the sixth year, but the coach admitted the appeal was not likely because Padgett's redshirt season was used during his transfer from Kansas to Louisville.
While Padgett is sidelined, the Cardinals figure to use sophomore Derrick Caracter in the post along with senior reserve Terrance Farley. If Padgett cannot return to basketball, Pitino said he's still welcome to be a part of the Louisville program throughout the season.
Pitino said he admired Padgett's ability to work through pain, continue to stay positive and his impressive leadership skills. All reasons that Pitino believes Padgett will be successful with or without basketball.
"For David, because of his leadership ability, because of his intelligence and because of his fortitude there are a lot of roads and doors that lead to prosperity for him," Pitino said. "It is not just the road of basketball. There are a lot of roads that will lead to his prosperity."
He earned his bachelor's degree in political science in the spring and is currently taking graduate classes.
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