There were days when Kedren Johnson could barely lift his right shoulder over his head without agonizing pain.
Yet, the Vanderbilt point guard played through a reoccurring injury for more than three months of the 2013-13 season and led the team in points, assists, steals and minutes.
Coach Kevin Stallings can’t wait to see what his point guard can do with a reconstructed shoulder.
“I’m just excited because I think he’ll be back to 100 percent,” Stallings said. “Even though he gave us 100 percent all season long, I think the shoulder kept him from feeling and playing at 100 percent once it became a problem.”
Having dealt with an aggravating shoulder subluxation — or partial dislocation of the joint — since December, Johnson recently underwent surgery on his labrum. Stallings is hopeful to have the Lewisburg native back on the court in less than four months, toward the end of the summer and in plenty of time before practices begin in October.
Johnson first injured his shoulder in the first practice after Christmas.
While playing defense, he pushed down on the ball as a teammate pulled up. That caused Johnson’s shoulder to partially tear. He missed practice but returned three days later to play against Butler and went unscathed for two weeks until almost the exact thing occurred against Arkansas in early January.
Once a subluxation happens, athletic trainer Shannon Gordon said at the time, the shoulder is prone to reoccurrence. That was the case for Johnson, who started all 33 games but missed parts of at least five due to either bumping his shoulder or twisting it the wrong way.
“The long-term prognosis was not such that we felt like it was worth not having it done,” Stallings said. “The surgery tends to be a very successful surgery. … Apparently the tear in there was more significant than they had been able to detect from the MRI. I don’t think that caused any further complications or recovery time. There was a little more damage in there than they had suspected when they went in. We were very glad that they did the operation.”
Johnson’s production in an injury-mired sophomore campaign bodes well for the 2013-14 season.
Before the first subluxation, Johnson scored at least 15 points in seven of his first 10 games and all three 25-point plus games came before Dec. 29. He finished the season averaging 13.5 points and 3.6 assists.
“I felt like Kedren started the season off in great fashion,” Stallings said. “Then I think the shoulder really kind of debilitated him more and more as the season went along. He showed incredible toughness to play through it, especially when it would slide around and cause problems. He really played through a lot of pain.”
The most experienced returner from the previous season, Johnson became the leader of a young Vanderbilt squad that went 16-17 and finished 10th in the Southeastern Conference. The Commodores ended the season on a hot streak by winning six of their final eight and surprisingly reached the SEC Tournament semifinals after upsetting No. 2 seed Kentucky.
Johnson again will lead the backcourt next winter and he’ll have some help.
In addition to guards Kyle Fuller, Dai-Jon Parker, Kevin Bright and Sheldon Jeter all being a year older, the Commodores will receive instant help in Eric McClellan. The 6-foot-4 point guard sat out all last year but still practiced with the team after transferring from Tulsa, where he averaged 8.5 points as a freshman.
Vanderbilt also will welcome 6-foot-9 freshman center Damian Jones — a much needed addition to a thin post presence — and expects everyone return from a senior-less squad.
“I think all of us inside the program are very excited about what next year holds,” Stallings said. “We knew this past year was going to be a transition year of sorts. But we have a lot of optimism about what we can do next year and how good we can be.”