Kedren Johnson just can’t seem to shrug off this injury.
Since he suffered a subluxation, or partial dislocation, in his shoulder during practice the day after Christmas, Vanderbilt’s leading scorer has played through pain. In each of the last three games, he has re-aggravated his shoulder, most recently when he was hit while making a layup against Tennessee on Wednesday night.
While rest might be the best answer for the sophomore point guard, Johnson said he doesn’t have the time right now.
“It would have to be a long extended period of time to where I had time to really let it rest and heal and take some of that tenderness away,” Johnson said. “I want to keep playing. The pain, as long as it is moderate, then I’ll be all right.”
Johnson hasn’t missed a game this season, is the only Vanderbilt player to start all 23 games and ranks fourth in the Southeastern Conference in minutes played (32.3 per game). He is a valuable asset for the struggling Commodores, who host SEC newcomer Texas A&M on Saturday (5:30 p.m., Fox Sports Network).
Johnson leads Vanderbilt (9-14, 3-8) with 14.1 points a game and 3.2 assists. But his minutes have decreased in the last three games and he hasn’t been as efficient, making just 10 of 29 shots (34.4 percent).
The injury heals on its own, popping back into the joint. But the recovery time varies each instance.
Against Tennessee, he sat out for eight minutes as he tried to regain feeling in his arm. On Thursday before practice, Johnson said most of the tenderness had all but dissipated. Still, his arm felt heavier than normal and sore when he raised it above his head.
Johnson said he could wear a brace but fears it would hinder his ability to raise his arm and shoot.
Last month, athletic trainer Shannon Gordon said once a subluxation occurs the injury is prone to reoccurrence. Johnson can aggravate the shoulder in different ways, too. The first couple times his shoulder popped out when he was grabbed for the ball and pushed down with it while the opposing player pulled up. Lately, though, he has banged his shoulder directly or twisted when reaching for a loose ball.
“You never know when it is going to get banged and do what it does,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “I’ve never been a coach who questions the [athletic] trainers and questions the doctors. If they tell me he can’t play then he can’t play. If they tell me he can play then I assume he can play. I can’t do any more than that. I can’t make it heal.
“Kedren is a tough kid physically. He has played through some pain. He doesn’t like to sit out. He doesn’t want to be out. So he’ll give us the best he’s got.”
He expects to be in the starting lineup against Texas A&M (15-9, 5-6). The Aggies have won three of five and are led by Elston Turner, who averages 16.5 points and scored 37 against Ole Miss on Wednesday.
Commodores fans will see some familiar faces in the audience. Former Vanderbilt standouts John Jenkins, Festus Ezeli and Jeffery Taylor – three of the first 31 picks in last year’s NBA Draft – are expected to be back at Memorial. All three are enjoying the NBA All-Star Break and Jenkins and Taylor stopped by practice on Thursday. Former Vanderbilt forward Lance Goulbourne also was on hand. He has been playing on the scout team in practice for the better part of two weeks. He headed back to Santa Cruz, Calif., on Friday as the all-star break for the NBA’s Development League ended.
“All of them are good friends, the team last year was really close and nobody really had any problems with each other,” Johnson said. “So it is always fun when they can come back and hang out with us for a little bit. They made the building blocks for us to really start up a program like Vanderbilt and get on the national scene.”