More than a transition for Penn's Greg Louis
The sophomore returned back to the court after missing his first year
January 29, 2013, 8:32 pm·
Amanda Suarez | DP
The move from high school to college is a transition.
But for sophomore Greg Louis, “transition” is a bit of an understatement.
In the fall of 2011, the 6-foot-7 forward came to Penn’s campus, having just won a class 5A state title at Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
His talent-rich team finished the season 33-2, while competing against the likes of Duke’s Quinn Cook, Arizona’s Nick Johnson and NBA lottery pick Austin Rivers. The squad capped off the season with a No. 8 national ranking from USA Today.
But the good times — and Sunshine State weather — would not last. Louis began experiencing pain late in his senior year at Dwyer, and it persisted into his first semester at Penn. Perelman School of Medicine’s John Kelly identified Louis’ condition as femoroacetabular impingement, or FAI. Simply put, Louis had extra bone that was irritating his hip joint.
The necessary surgery was relatively straightforward: shave off the extra bone and alleviate the problem. However, just a few hours in surgery leads to four months of recovery time, and with the procedure scheduled for November of 2011, Louis was set to miss his entire freshman season.
For a player who “can’t get enough” basketball, according to Dwyer coach Fred Ross, Louis’ biggest challenge yet would be not playing at all.
“I remember the first game of the season last year, being in a jersey, and the game ended and I thought, ‘I’m going to have to go through something like 34, 35 more of these experiences,’” Louis said. “That’s the worst: game day … and not being able to help. It’s just really frustrating.”
However, Louis did have a companion in the rehab process who could advise him based on first-hand experience with the injury. Former Penn forward Larry Loughery, who opted to leave the basketball program in November of 2012, had suffered from the same condition — on both hips.
When Louis asked for perspective on the surgery, Loughery encouraged him to get the operation and preserve his bright future in the game.
“You’re a freshman. You’re clearly in pain. You’ve got to get out of here, you’ve got to get healthy first,” Loughery told him. “You’re not helping anybody when you’re injured.”
After a summer working to retool his skill set, Louis returned to the hardcourt, and one year later than expected, he finally began his college career.
When five players were suspended for the Red and Blue’s Dec. 21 matchup against Delaware, Louis got his first start and broke out for 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Including that start, Louis has logged at least four rebounds in seven of his past nine game, averaging 4.9 per contest over that span. Overall, Louis ranks second on the team with 62 boards.
Despite standing at just 6-7, Louis has an impact in the paint in large part due to his frame and seven-foot wingspan.
“Initially, I wanted to be more of a perimeter player, but I realized how valuable it is to have someone that controls things in the paint,” Louis said. “It changes games.”
Louis gained an unexpected lesson in the value of hard work during his senior season when his high school squad took on Rivers and Winter Park High School. The Duke-bound guard and eventual NBA lottery pick erupted for 42 points and handed Dwyer one of its two losses on the season.
Louis walked away from the game not dejected, but inspired.
“It was actually encouraging playing him because before the game there was so much hype around him, but playing against him you realized it wasn’t … magic — it wasn’t impossible to stop him,” Louis said. “He had just worked really hard at his craft, and he was good because he worked at it.”
Since waiting a year to officially take the court for the Quakers, Louis now enjoys simply playing each day, growing as a player and learning from coach Jerome Allen, who Louis calls “a great teacher.”
“As painful as it has been learning, that’s what I love about playing basketball — improving,” Louis said. “Every day I can learn something and I can improve. It sounds corny, but that’s how I look at it every day.”