Just before lacing up his ankle brace for a midweek practice, Tyler Bernardini declared himself good to go for his senior campaign — his fifth-year senior campaign.
Bernardini has most recently battled an ankle injury which sidelined him from most summer basketball activity, but with just over a week before the season tips off, he said he’s ready to roll.
“I’m doing really well,” the swingman said, adding he would be 100 percent ready by the time Penn faces UMBC for the Nov. 11 season-opener. “Let’s do it.”
Bernardini sat out of the Oct. 22 intrasquad Red and Blue Scrimmage, nursing the injury, along with a sizeable portion of the Penn roster. But he said he played in the team’s closed scrimmage Saturday against Niagara and felt good.
For a former Ivy League and Big 5 Rookie of the Year, Bernardini has spent his fair share of time riding the bench. It’s not as if that talent disappeared; his three-pointer is still as deadly as ever. But frequent bouts with injury have plagued the swingman throughout his collegiate career.
The Carlsbad, Calif., native was shelved two games into his junior year with a stress fracture, which enabled him to receive eligibility for a fifth year this season. That year, Penn finished with a program-worst 6-22 record.
And while he played in all 28 games last season, he was forced to wear a face mask for a chunk of the season after suffering a broken nose in late December.
Bernardini’s return from the stress fracture in 2010 was anything but smooth.
He struggled through the first five weeks of last season, averaging 6.5 points per game (half his career average), until he poured in 18 points at Marist on Dec. 29.
From that point on, he was lights out.
If healthy this year, he’ll be relied upon for his scoring ability to complement backcourt mates Zack Rosen and sophomore Miles Cartwright.
Despite having to sit out for much of the summer, Bernardini isn’t concerned about shaking off the rust this time around.
“It’s not something I’m anxious or worried about,” Bernardini said. “You’re just going to have to play through it. I’ve been out a lot less, so that period of rust should be minimized, but it’s not something you really think about.”
Despite the injury, he has continued to fine tune his game as best he could, getting in the gym with teammate Dau Jok at 6 a.m. — before heading to work each day — and then returning in the evening.
“I was trying to get reps and shots, trying to fine tune it all and keep everything tight,” he said.
“It’s only a matter of time before it all comes back,” he added.
The question this year — as last — will be whether that can happen as quickly as next Friday.