If you think Ryan Mikesell was happy about what he could do Saturday night at UD Arena, you should consider his mom.
Lisa Mikesell probably was overjoyed.
… And relieved.
Watching her son score 18 points, grab 11 rebounds and play over 28 minutes in the Dayton Flyers’ 76-46 victory over Coppin State certainly is better than what she had to witness 17 months ago in their St. Henry home.
“The lowest point was probably the second or third day after my surgeries,” Mikesell, a 6-foot-7 redshirt junior, said after Saturday’s game. “It was tough for me getting around the house and going to the restroom hurt my pride a little bit.
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“My mom…she had to help me go to the restroom. That was a low point.
“She helped me when I was young and she helped me out when I was 20 years old. Not a lot of people can say that.”
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After playing the 2016-17 season – his sophomore year — in pain, he underwent a pair of MRIs and was found to have an impingement problem in each hip.
“I had bone lesions on each of my femurs and that caused the impingements in my hip sockets,” he once explained to me. “I ended up tearing my labrums and had some other problems in there and needed to get it fixed.”
Dr. Tom Ellis, a hip specialist with Orthopedic One in Columbus, surgically repaired the right hip in May of 2017 and the left hip a month later.
A long, often painful rehab followed and he missed all of last season as a medical redshirt.
His first game back was the Nov. 2 exhibition against Capitol when he played 23 minutes and scored 12 points.
Five days later in the 78-70 victory over North Florida in the opener, he played 35 minutes, scored 12 points again, had six assists and got his first college dunk.
Saturday night was the second double-double of his career and afterward UD coach Anthony Grant saluted him:
“He went through a lot last year. First and foremost, I’m happy for him. He has an opportunity to be back out there doing what he loves to do.
“I know how much is means for him to put on that Dayton jersey every single day.”
From St. Henry to UD
Mikesell grew up in St. Henry 69 miles northwest of Dayton.
It has been well documented that the small Mercer County town is big when it comes to sports. Its favorite sons include NFL players Jim Lachey, Jeff Hartings and Bobby Hoying, Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman and Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame right fielder Wally Post – he’s actually from the nearby crossroads of Wendelin, but played at St. Henry High School – who happened to be the brother of Mikesell’s grandmother.
But it was another St. Henry standout that caught Mikesell’s fancy when he was in grade school.
Kurt Huelsman was the Flyers 6-foot-10 center back then and soon Mikesell was coming to UD games, thanks to his uncle who had season tickets.
After winning first team all-state honors his senior season at St. Henry, Mikesell came to Dayton and his very first game became one of the most glorious debuts in UD history.
He scored 21 points against Southeast Missouri State—making 5 of 7 three-point attempts and hearing the Red Scare student section chant his name in the closing minutes – and admits he got a skewered view of Division I basketball.
“Yeah I was 18 back then and I thought ‘Is this college basketball?’” he said with a grin. “But I don’t think I got a clean look the entire rest of the season.”
He ended his freshman year averaging three points and eight minutes a game and did not play at all in 11 contests.
As a sophomore he was one of four players to play in all 32 games. He started 24 times and averaged 20.8 minutes a game, but that extended effort contributed to the growing discomfort he was feeling. Soon his mobility, production and minutes declined.
UD trainer Mike Mulcachey worked endless hours with him and Mikesell tried everything to help alleviate the pain: massages, extra stretching, lots of time in hot tubs and cold tubs, acupuncture and yoga.
“It got so I wasn’t thinking about the games , I was just thinking ‘My body needs to get through this game,’” he said.
Following the surgeries, he began what he referred to Saturday as his “long journey.”
“I was on crutches about eight weeks,” he said. “I wasn’t able to walk around, drive, nothing like that. I wasn’t able to start moving until the four-month mark and didn’t get out on the court until seven months. And I really wasn’t able to go after it out there until eight or nine months”.
He said he spent three or four hours a day with Mulcahey, who helped him get through the process with encouragement and daily incentive: “I just tried to improve 1 percent a day and that added up.”
He said it was tough sitting on the bench last season, unable to do anything as the team struggled to a 14-17 record and discord set in with a couple of the guys with whom he had come to UD.
He’s now the only scholarship player left from his four-man recruiting class:
Sam Miller is now at College of Charleston, John Crosby is at Delaware State and Xeyrius Williams is at Akron.
‘Things are good now’
Mikesell – who still does added stretching before games – claims he’s back to 100 percent.
And UD needs him. He has played in more games – 56 – than any other Flyer and he’s being called on to help take up the slack since Josh Cunningham has missed the first two games this season with a wrist injury.
He said he felt some emotion with his return in the exhibition game and by the opener last Wednesday, he managed to soar to new heights.
Early on he tried the first dunk of his career and it was blocked.
“I was like, ‘Alright, I either got to jump faster or shot fake,” he said.
He did dunk on his second attempt, but when a third opportunity came up, he said he rethought the effort, faked and got fouled:
As he was explaining, he looked over and grinned at teammate Obi Toppin, a dunking machine, who stood nearby:
“I know my game. I’m not a high-flier like Obi, getting those half-court lobs.”
He laughed and you witnessed an interaction between players you didn’t always see last season. “It’s fun playing with guys you really care about,” Mikesell said. “You want to see them succeed.”
And Saturday night no one succeeded like him.
Afterward, he planned to join his parents, get something to eat and maybe celebrate his big accomplishment:
“Things are good now,” he said with a grin. “I’m back … and I’m able to go to the bathroom by myself again.”