At the Rio Olympics the Australian men’s basketball team gave Team USA a run for its money (the U.S. hung on to win 98-88). One couldn’t help imagine what the Aussies would have done if they had two more of their NBA brethren on the roster. Ben Simmons is the obvious name, but the Philadelphia 76ers rookie opted to focus on the NBA Summer League and preparing for his first NBA season instead of playing for his country in Rio.
Another name missing from the Boomers roster, though, is one you may have forgotten: Dante Exum.
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Drafted by the Utah Jazz with the fifth overall pick in 2014, Exum had a quiet rookie season, averaging 4.8 points and 2.4 assists in 22 minutes a game. But the Jazz took the 6-foot-6, 190-pound point guard knowing that he was raw and needed time to develop. That plan was going swimmingly until Exum tore his ACL playing for the Boomers in an exhibition game last summer. Everything had to be put on hold.
Exum wasn’t quite healthy enough to suit up for his country in the Olympics. But after undergoing surgery last September and a long and grueling rehab, he’s finally ready to kick off his second full season in the NBA. Just six weeks after surgery, Exum was out of a cast and walking without crutches, or even a limp. This was made possible by what he calls “prefab”— exercises designed to strengthen the quad muscles in his left leg ahead of surgery. Exum says it was awful at the time but made a huge difference in his post-op recovery.
“The prehab—as much as I hated it, it was really good for me,” he told the Deseret News. “I saw the results coming out of the surgery. I was still able to lift my leg up on its own. The strength was still there as much as I’d lost. That was the biggest thing. It’s helped me to be able to walk sooner, get off the crutches and out of the brace, just because of that.”
Eventually Exum began to run again. He continued to work on his leg strength with single-leg balance exercises and multiple Squat variations. In May, Exum was cleared to get back on the court for one-on-one activities. By June, he had participated in his first game of 5-on-5 with his Jazz teammates.
With a roster full of young talent ready to blossom and Exum set to return, the Jazz could be serious playoff contender in the 2016-2017 NBA season.