The Hermon High School standout, a senior who helped the Hawks capture the 2018 Class B state championship and return to the North regional final last winter, sat out his second straight game Saturday with a sesamoid fracture in his right foot.
The small, weight-bearing bone is located in the ball of the foot just below the big toe joint. And while the break will not require surgery, it generally needs at least one month to heal and in many cases takes considerably longer for a full recovery.
With postseason play set to start next week and conclude by the end of February, it’s unclear whether Varney would be able to return to the Hawks lineup at full capacity in time.
“We’re trying a lot of different vitamins to speed up the recovery time, as well as laser therapy, with the best-case scenario, God allowing, that I heal faster than the doctors have seen before,” Varney said. “But it’s just a bad time period for it to heal with the tournament only being weeks away, so it could be one of those season-enders for me, unfortunately.”
Varney is one of three players from an undefeated 2016 Glenburn middle-school team that have gone on to have major impacts on the Greater Bangor high school basketball scene along with fellow seniors Bryce Lausier of Hampden Academy and Henry Westrich of Bangor High School.
Varney has helped Hermon to a 70-9 record through his first three-plus seasons, with four of the losses coming since he suffered the foot injury.
Coach Mark Reed’s club has been seeded No. 1 in the final Class B North Heal Points at the end of each of the last three regular seasons. Hermon went undefeated in 2018 and 20-1 last winter — when a 42-game winning streak ended with a loss to Caribou in the 2019 Class B North title game.
Varney, a Big East Conference first-team all-star each of the last two seasons, believes he suffered the injury during a 50-49 loss at Ellsworth on Jan. 15.
“The doctor said it was an acute injury, which means it was a one-time impact, and I remember distinctly during the Ellsworth game when I stepped too hard or something like that and there was a pretty good shock of pain,” he said. “But my adrenaline was high and I was able to continue playing.”
Varney battled through lingering pain for the next few days, but after helping Hermon defeat defending state champion Caribou on Jan. 18 — when he scored career point No. 1,000 — the 6-foot-4 forward struggled physically during the Hawks’ 57-40 loss to Orono on Jan. 25.
After a subsequent doctor’s visit Varney went to the sidelines, beginning with his team’s 53-34 loss at Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft last Thursday.
“I got it taped and thought it might be a bone bruise,” said Varney, who is averaging 17 points, 10 rebounds and three steals this winter. “I wanted to keep playing and I hate the doctors so I didn’t want to go there, but there came a certain point after the Orono game when we lost and I didn’t feel like I was playing the same. That’s when we knew we had to get it looked at.”
Varney now has his right foot in an aircast and uses a scooter to get around school, as he focuses on keeping his weight off the foot.
“With you always putting about half your body weight on it, like 90 to 95 pounds, it may be a small bone but it takes a long time to properly heal,” Varney said.
Varney also wants to give the injury ample time to heal fully because he hopes to play college basketball at the scholarship level beginning next season.
“I have to think long term,” he said. “Obviously I want to compete at a high level in college and I want to be one of the best players on the floor so I can’t have this injury lingering around into college. I have to think big picture.”
Varney’s immediate goal is to help his high school teammates make the most of their remaining season.
Hermon is 11-5 after Saturday’s 44-27 loss in its rematch against Ellsworth and ranked fourth in Class B North. The Hawks are 13 points ahead of fifth-place Houlton. They have regular-season home games left against Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor on Tuesday and John Bapst of Bangor on Thursday.
The top four teams in Class B North earn preliminary-round byes and won’t begin postseason play until the regional quarterfinals at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Feb. 14 and 15.
“Injuries are never at the ideal time, but it’s part of playing the game,” Varney said. “It’s unfortunate, but I have to keep my head up and try to help get the team in a position to win.”