It is the Concordia Stingers’ most important game of the season: The opening game of the CIS Final 8 against the Calgary Dinos. Over an hour before tip-off, some Stingers come on the court for a light shoot around warm up prior to the game.
Levi Vann is one of those players. However, Vann won’t be taking part in the game. He will be watching helplessly from the Stingers bench. He injured his ankle in the team’s third exhibition game of the season and took part in only five games in the regular season.
This isn’t how the season was supposed to go for Vann. It was his fifth year. The team was energized with the return of Dwayne Buckley following an injury that saw him miss the entire previous season. It was then ironic when, in the game where Dwayne, a fellow fifth-year senior, provided the winning points in a 102-101 overtime victory over the St. Francis Xavier X-Men, Vann took a charge and the player landed on his ankle.
“That was pretty much the end, there,” Vann said. “I rehabbed a little bit and I had planned on coming back after Christmas, I played in San Diego and in a couple of games afterward.”
It was during those games that Vann said he had “major complications” in the ankle. He had an MRI done, and the results weren’t favourable. Vann had a torn retinaculum, bone chips and a bruised talus.
“It was a combination of things that just didn’t allow me to play. Everything pointed to me not playing,” he said. “It’s hard that it was my fifth year. If it was my first, second, even my fourth year I would have a year to come back and enjoy it.”
Vann showed some restraint in coming back from the injury and wanted to make sure he did what was best for the team.
“I tried to stay optimistic the entire season, hoping that I’d wake up one day and it would feel better,” Vann said. “After the MRI, it solidified the truth. After we made Nationals, I said that I would try to play but I hadn’t played for a month and they were playing really well. I didn’t want to come back at less than 100 per cent and be a detriment. It’s not a tournament you want to play in if you’re not fully ready – not only for yourself but for your team.”
“You want to have your best five players on the court at 100 per cent and I didn’t think I could do that because of the injury,” he said.
Vann, even though he wasn’t playing, was still with the team the entire time. He says it was important for the team.
“When you lose someone, whether to injury or anything else, you lose a part of your family. I try to do whatever I can to make up for the fact that I am not able to play,” he said.
Losing Vann hurt the Stingers on the court. He was the team’s second leading scorer last year averaging 10 points per game. He also is one of the best three point shooters on the team at just over 34 per cent.
“Once you’re a member of the family you’re always a member of the family,” said Stingers head coach John Dore. “He offers a lot of things to this team. I feel for him that he couldn’t play in his last year but he offers leadership, direction to the younger guys and even in the middle of a game you can see him talking to the guys about things he sees,” Dore said.
The injury has given Vann some time to think about life after basketball. He is about to graduate from Concordia with a degree in political science and says he’ll miss playing the game.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do after I graduate,” Vann said. “I need to find something to keep that competitive edge up. I’m a very competitive guy and having it just cut off . . . I won’t be able to deal with that.”
“It has been an adjustment for Levi to go from playing to see things from courtside. It has been tough for him, but the skills he’s learning are good for him. We’re proud to have him as part of the family,” Dore said.