By ANDY WOLF
Brady Wildermuth had never before missed a basketball game, or even a practice, due to injury.
So when a little discomfort came up in his stomach, he tried to push through it.
On Nov. 20 he learned, after a rude, literal awakening at 5 a.m., that his appendix had burst. All he knew at the time was immense pain.
Wildermuth got a ride to the hospital from roommate and starting point guard Tommy Schmock.
The University of Findlay sophomore forward was on the operating table in less than an hour.
When he awoke, he wanted to get back to practice.
That same day, the Oilers were hosting defending national champion Ferris State.
“(Head) coach (Charlie) Ernst was there, I said ‘Hey what time is shoot around?’ ” Wildermuth said. “He’s like ‘I don’t think you’re going.’
“I didn’t know what happened until when the doctor came back.
“I got tubes in me, big old scars. I didn’t know what happened.”
Findlay eventually topped Ferris State 103-92, much to the delight of Wildermuth, who saw the stat sheet later on.
There were initial hopes he could return in February.
Following a setback in his recovery a week later, Wildermuth’s sophomore season was done before it ever got off the ground.
Listed officially at 6 foot 6 and 210 pounds, Wildermuth weighed in 35 pounds lighter a week after the surgery.
“I was getting made fun of in the locker room like ‘Whoa, we’ve got a high school senior coming in,'” a laughing Wildermuth said.
Fortunately, Wildermuth is able to take a medical redshirt since he only played three games.
Still, he would rather be on the basketball court.
“Being out of it is really unfortunate, but we have a really strong leader,” he said. “Everyone is really encouraging to me. They don’t let me get down on myself. They take care of business.”
Wildermuth’s growth in the program will have to wait another year.
Ernst expected big things from the sophomore from Jackson Center after getting his feet wet behind other 6-7 bigs in senior Alex White (6-7) and junior Aaron Overhiser (6-7).
Wildermuth averaged 5.6 minutes in 20 games last season, but only played a total of 9 minutes over two of Findlay’s five postseason games that included a Sweet 16 run.
“Just in practice, guarding (White and Overhiser) has made me a better basketball player than I could’ve been anywhere else and playing right away,” Wildermuth said.
Ernst said he was looking forward to seeing how Wildermuth would grow as an offensive player out on the perimeter after showing flashes last season but also showing some typical freshman discomfort in the system.
“He came in to the season with a lot of confidence, had a lot in preseason in terms of practice,” Ernst said.
Wildermuth wanted to work on his ball handling to control pressure and also his outside shooting.
One of the biggest adjustments was also adapting to the physicality.
“You have to learn different ways how to beat people in the post,” he said.
Wildermuth is back to feeling better and said he has a lot of energy back.
A lot of his extra minutes have gone to 6-6 freshman Deven Stover (12.1 mpg), an energizing rebounder in his own right.
Ernst does feel the team hasn’t been the same.
“He and Brady had been practicing well together, playing well together in those (first two) games,” Ernst said.
“The thing we miss with Brady more than anything is his exuberance, his personality. He’s a warrior, but he’s also great communicator. He brings energy to practice. Not some of the time, not most of the time — all of the time.
“It’s times like now, mid-January, it’s getting cold outside, we’ve been playing for a couple months, the practices start to drag on a little bit. This is where you need your energy guys to step up. This is where Brady would flourish in these situations.”
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