Under normal circumstances, Hilliard Davidson High School boys basketball coach Kevin Logsdon would not be surprised to see post player Michael Simon leading his team.
The 6-foot-6 junior and third-year starter has been the Wildcats' top all-around performer thus far this season, averaging a team-high 12.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists through 10 games.
The reason Logsdon and his assistants have been caught off guard by Simon's play is that he isn't fully recovered from a significant knee injury, which required surgery and prevented him from playing or practicing for more than five months before the start of this season.
"Michael's comeback has been amazing considering that from the end of June right up until the morning of our first game (Dec. 13), he couldn't play basketball at all and he wasn't even expected to be (medically) cleared to play again until sometime in January," Logsdon said. "He's still getting back into a rhythm, but we've continued to lean on him, because even at less than 100 percent, he's still our best player."
Simon dislocated his kneecap and tore the patella tendon in his left knee while playing basketball in late June. In early July, he underwent surgery performed by former Ohio State and NFL linebacker Greg Bellisari to repair the damage.
"I dislocated my kneecap a couple of times before I had my surgery, and the first time it happened, I fell to the floor and screamed bloody murder because it was extremely painful," Simon said. "After surgery, I wasn't able to move from the couch for three weeks and I lost 25 pounds. Every time I had to get up for something, there was an instant rush of sharp pain in my knee.
"All I wanted to do was get back to playing basketball, and there were times I was so frustrated that I just wanted to punch the wall."
Simon attended physical therapy three days a week as part of his recovery and surprised Bellisari by earning medical clearance nearly a month ahead of schedule.
As of last week, Simon estimated that between 85 to 90 percent of his strength and range of motion had returned to his knee.
"I didn't know if I was going to make it back in time to play every game, so it's been a big relief," he said. "I love playing basketball so much and I appreciate it more than ever after having to take such a long break. That's inspired me to do my best every game because you never know what will happen in the future."
Simon's love for basketball comes from his parents, both of whom played collegiately. His father, Mike, played four seasons at Mount Union and his mother, Kim, played one season at Mount Union.
"My parents definitely had a big part in teaching me what I know about the game," Simon said. "My dad taught me how to shoot, how to read defenses and most of my post moves. My mom taught me to be tough and work harder to get better at everything I do."
"My son and I have played a lot of spirited one-on-one games over the years, but to tell the truth, he's much better than I ever was," Mike Simon said. "What impressed me the most was how hard he worked to come back early from his injury. He just has a passion for the game."
Simon earned a starting position on varsity as a freshman, averaging 4.1 points as the Wildcats finished 13-10.
Last season, he averaged a team-high 13.5 points and was named second-team all-OCC-Central Division and honorable mention all-district in Division I as Davidson struggled with a largely inexperienced lineup and finished 5-18.
"My freshman season was a dream come true because my dad started as a sophomore in high school and my goal was to start as a freshman," Simon said. "I played with a great group of seniors and winning so many games was a great experience.
"There was a lot more pressure on me to score and do more for my team my sophomore year, and I had my best season of basketball even though I was getting double- and triple-teamed a lot. But even though I scored a lot of points, I felt awful a lot of the time because we lost so many games."
Davidson was 3-7 overall and 2-4 in the OCC-Central before playing Dublin Coffman on Jan. 14.
"Michael's real quick around the basket and he has a quick shot and a good release," Logsdon said. "Two stats that are really impressive for a big man are the fact that he (had) made 55 percent (12 of 22) of his 3-pointers and he (was) leading our team in assists (through eight games). He's got a nice shooting touch and he's an unselfish and accurate passer from the post."
According to Logsdon, Simon is drawing interest from multiple Division I colleges. For now, though, Simon is focused on getting his knee back to full strength and helping the Wildcats improve.
"I'm trying to get 100 percent healthy again and, before I graduate, I want to help our team win a conference championship and make a long tournament run to put Davidson basketball back on the map," he said.
Panthers finding ways to win close games
Since losing its first four games, Darby has been nearly unbeatable.
The Panthers won three closely-contested games last week and entered the week 7-5 overall. They had won four consecutive games and seven of their previous eight before playing Upper Arlington on Jan. 14.
Darby edged Westerville Central 53-52 in overtime in an OCC-Cardinal game Jan. 8 and held on to beat Bradley 56-53 in a league contest Jan. 10 before defeating Olentangy 50-48 on Jan. 11.
The Panthers are 5-2 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Against Central, Taylor Van Winkle had 19 points, Nick Powers scored 10 and Jordan Clark made a pair of clutch free throws with two seconds left to close the scoring, as Darby rallied from a 30-19 halftime deficit.
Against Bradley, Van Winkle scored 14 of his game-high 24 points in the second quarter when the Panthers outscored the Jaguars 20-7 to take a 34-20 lead into halftime. Clark added 13 points.
Powers had a team-high 16 points against Olentangy. Van Winkle and Clark each added 10 points and Braeden Hook broke a 48-all tie by making a baseline jumper as time expired.
Darby travels to Davidson on Saturday, Jan. 18, for the 14th matchup between the programs. The Panthers defeated Davidson 48-33 last season and lead the all-time series 7-6.
Glenn, Murphy leading way for Jaguars
Bradley is 3-8 overall and 3-4 in the OCC-Cardinal heading into its game Friday, Jan. 17, at Dublin Jerome.
Brandon Glenn had 25 points, Jackson Murphy scored 12 and Derek Dunnagan scored 10 in a 55-51 league win over Dublin Scioto on Jan. 7.
Although its second-half rally fell short, Bradley outscored Darby 33-22 over the final two quarters. Murphy scored 14 of his team-high 21 points in the second half and Glenn added 15 points.