Persistent knee issues have curbed Boston College cocaptain Dennis Clifford’s minutes much of the season, and a week ago it reached the point at which the sophomore center was given a cortisone shot in his right knee to try to ease the pain and allow him to play.
While he’s played in 18 of the Eagles’ 21 games, Clifford has done so while dealing with damage to the cartilage under his kneecap. The condition, known as chondromalacia patella, can be treated with rest, ice, and physical therapy, but in some cases requires surgery.
Between this knee injury and a right ankle sprain that had him in a walking boot in mid-December, Clifford’s been a shell of the promising player who averaged 9.1 points and 4.7 rebounds as a freshman. But as the Eagles prepared for Tuesday’s road matchup with Miami, coach Steve Donahue said he hoped the shot would alleviate some of Clifford’s discomfort.
“It usually takes a while to take its course,” Donahue said. “I think it’s helped him. I was watching him today, I think he’s moving better, the pain isn’t as bad. What you hope is you keep with the therapy, you keep working on that conditioning and it gets better over time.
“This was hopefully something that would help him with the pain and the flexibility and continuing to be doing more aggressive rehab. I think it’s helped a little bit, but I don’t know if we’ll really know for a couple more weeks.”
With both knees heavily wrapped, Clifford made a two-minute cameo in the Eagles’ 75-68 win over Clemson last Saturday, the shortest outing of his career. It came after he played just four minutes the game before against North Carolina and nine minutes before that at Virginia.
As a freshman, Clifford was one of five players to start all 31 games, but he’s been resigned to a reserve role because of injuries. Without the 7-footer, BC’s size issues are glaring, with Ryan Anderson essentially serving as the only true big man in the starting lineup. They’re minus-37 in rebounding in their eight conference games.
The thought of shutting Clifford down for the season has crossed Donahue’s mind. By and large, the minutes Clifford has played have been ineffective. He’s gone scoreless in four of the past six games and wasn’t on the floor long enough to grab a rebound in the last two.
“We just haven’t seen Dennis in three and a half months,” Donahue said. “He’s going through so much. We’re hoping with one little thing we tried last week, we’re hoping it’s going to make him feel better.’’
Foul shooting was hardly an issue throughout the nonconference schedule, when BC shot 74 percent as a team, but since the start of ACC play, the Eagles have been shaky at the line, diving to 64.8 percent.
BC gets to the line more than any team in the conference outside of North Carolina State, but three of the players who stay on the stripe — Anderson (57.4 percent), Olivier Hanlan (66.7 percent), and Joe Rahon (60 percent) — have struggled.
“Ryan’s been up and down in his career,” Donahue said. “He’s a guy that gets to the line a lot and he’s in a bad funk and we’re trying to work through it. Joe, I think, will get it figured out. I don’t have worries about anybody else specifically. It’s not that many bad foul shooters. But I think Ryan and Joe have had their ups and downs here for a good couple weeks.”
Coming on strong
More minutes have come Eddie Odio’s way largely because of his willingness to do as much dirty work as possible. After putting up 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 blocks against North Carolina, Odio filled every column in the box score against Clemson (7 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks, and 2 assists in 29 minutes) by hitting the floor for loose balls and chasing down fast breaks to swat away layups. “What Eddie was doing was exactly what we’re preaching and he does it so well, I think you’re seeing his maturation right in front of you,” Donahue said. “I thought Eddie did a great job with all the energy things.” . . . Rahon earned ACC rookie of the week honors for the second time this season, after scoring a slump-busting 26 points in Saturday’s win over Clemson. It was the most points scored by an ACC freshman this season, and he did it on a balky right ankle that’s bothered him the past two weeks. Hanlan has earned the rookie honor three times.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.