Zach Levine inspires students

Ian Wesselhoff, Staff Writer

On February 3, 2017, then-Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine left a game against the Pistons with what was thought to be a “left knee contusion,” nothing more than a bruise. 

Two days later, an MRI revealed that LaVine had torn his ACL. 

He missed 286 days, a total of 74 games. Once he returned the following season after a draft-day trade to the Bulls, he played just 24 games, and couldn’t fully find his footing, shooting just 38.3% from the floor. 

Now, a little over a month into the 2018-2019 season, LaVine has emerged as a legitimate star for Chicago. 

“He looks like he completely recovered. If anything, he seems faster and stronger after the injury,” Roberto Ochoa, junior, said. 

When a player suffers any kind of ligament tear in the knee, there is no guarantee they ever return at full strength. LaVine has managed to overcome those odds, and to many students, his perseverance provides a source of inspiration.  

Gabe Jackson, junior, is one of those students. A basketball player himself, Jackson broke his thumb last year during the offseason, and was tasked with recovering before the season began. Admittedly, it was a very different type of injury, but Jackson still understands “the recovery process and the struggle of getting back into the sport.” 

Because of all the obstacles, the type of success LaVine has enjoyed was not expected by many. 

“This season is somewhat a surprise,” Michael Anderson, junior, said. “He told the press that he wants to be one of the best in the league, and he’s showing that.” 

Statistically, LaVine is having the best season of his career, putting up career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. What stands out most, though, is his improvement in scoring. 

“His skillset has vastly improved, and he has grown overall offensively,” Ochoa said.  

Currently, LaVine’s 23.8 points per game is twelfth in the NBA. 

“I won’t be surprised if he can average over 25 points for the entire season,” Christian DeLeon, junior, said. 

This high level of play that LaVine has sustained puts him in the running for a few accolades, including Most Improved Player and All-Star. 

“It is very possible for Zach to win Most Improved Player,” DeLeon said. “I think that if he continues to play like a star, he can contend for that award.”  

According to Anderson, “LaVine has the best chance out of everyone to win Most Improved.” 

RJ Turija, junior, believes LaVine’s shot at playing in his first All-Star Game is higher thanks to the conference the Bulls play in. 

“The East is weak, and it should be easier for Zach to get into it,” Turija said. 

The rise to the upper ranks of the NBA has not been easy for him, but Zach LaVine is there to stay. 

“His story is motivation to many athletes, no matter the sport,” Jackson said.