It has been a tough offseason for the top two returning players in the Bangor High School boys basketball program, Matthew Fleming and Damien Vance.
First Fleming, a first-team Bangor Daily News All-Maine forward for the Rams last winter, suffered a dislocated right elbow during an AAU game in southern Maine in early April.
Then Vance, a guard who earned BDN All-Maine honorable mention status this year, suffered a dislocated right ankle about a month later during an AAU game in Biddeford.
“I was in disbelief when I heard about (Vance),” Fleming said. “I didn’t know what to say. I just called him right away and told him to keep his head up.
“He got injured right about the time I started to do stuff again, so I just let him know that it gets better.”
Ironically, both began their comebacks at the same place, Maine Medical Center in Portland, where they had their dislocations reset without the need for surgery.
Both have spent the time since suffering their injuries resting and rehabilitating. Fleming finally returned to the court for game action last weekend during the annual Noonan Nation tournament at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.
“It went well,” said Fleming, also an All-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference first-team choice after averaging 25.3 points and 13.2 rebounds last winter. “I didn’t shoot the best at the beginning of the tournament but as it went on I started shooting better and feeling a lot better.”
Vance, an All-KVAC second-team choice as a junior, is in the earlier stages of his rehabilitation schedule after an injury that sparked initial fears of a setback similar to one experienced last fall by Gordon Hayward. Hayward, signed last summer by the Boston Celtics as a free agent, suffered both a dislocated ankle and a broken leg five minutes into his first game with the team and missed the remainder of the 2017-2018 season.
“When the ambulance came to get me, they got me in the ambulance and I was like, ‘Is it broken or just dislocated?’” recalled Vance. “They said, ‘We think it’s broken,’ but when we got the X-rays back there was no break.”
Vance did suffer a hairline fracture of the tibia in addition to his dislocated ankle, but no surgery was required. Approximately a month into his rehabilitation, he now is wearing a walking cast.
“The only pain I have right now is on the side (of the ankle) that went the other way,” he said. “Everything else feels back to normal.”
Both players are expected to be ready for their senior seasons of Bangor basketball next winter. Fleming gained medical clearance last week to resume an offseason schedule that includes the Bangor High School summer basketball program under new head coach Brad Libby, along with practices and weekend tournaments with the Maine Renegades AAU team.
“At this point in my rehab I don’t have my full range of motion yet, so I can’t straighten my arm fully,” he said. “I don’t have my regular jump shot yet and can’t follow through like I could before, but it seemed like during (last) weekend it was getting better.”
Vance will have to be more patient, though he does plan to join his Bangor High teammates during their upcoming workouts.
“I’ll just be watching summer basketball,” he said. “About all I’ve been able to do is put all my weight on my left foot and shoot free throws just so my shot doesn’t go away too much. I haven’t been able to run or anything like that.”
Follow BDN Maine Sports on Facebook for the latest in Maine high school and college sports.