Aggies' Derrick Roland Heading Home

By GREGG BELL
|  Thursday, Dec 24, 2009  |  Updated 10:15 PM CDT
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Aggies' Derrick Roland Heading Home

AP

Texas A&M's Derrick Roland is treated after a leg injury during a game at No. 22 Washington Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009, in Seattle, leaving the 19th-ranked Aggies without one of the leading defenders in the Big 12 Conference. The three-year letterman and the team's second-leading scorer crashed hard to the floor after leaping under the basket early in the second half.

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Texas A&M senior guard Derrick Roland is heading home for Christmas -- with a rod and three screws in his leg.

Dr. Chris Wahl, the surgeon who repaired the multiple fractures in Roland's right leg early Wednesday, said he cleared Roland to leave Harborview Medical Center on Thursday and return home because the wound and fracture are healing well.

But because the leader of the No. 19 Aggies still feels weak and has yet to tolerate regular food since surgery to repair a broken tibia and fibula, he's waiting until Friday to return to Texas on a medical transport plane.

The Aggies' defensive stopper and second-leading scorer snapped his leg on a fall early in the second half Tuesday night in a loss at No. 22 Washington.

WARNING: VIDEO IS GRAPHIC

"It was optimistic for him to go home (Thursday)," Wahl told The Associated Press in a telephone interview hours after he examined Roland. "But he looked great this morning."

Wahl, one of four University of Washington doctors who rushed on the court immediately after Roland fell after a leap for the rim, was inspecting for any signs of infection. Roland's bones snapped cleanly across, puncturing the skin, leaving his leg in almost a 90-degree angle and horrifying a sellout crowd at Hec Edmundson Pavilion on Tuesday night.

"The wound looks perfect," he said, adding Roland might always have the rod and screws in his leg.

In fact, Wahl and his colleagues had to remove old screws from a knee injury in Roland's leg early Wednesday so they had room to insert the "tibial nail" and the new screws in early Wednesday morning. But the doctor said he saw no previous condition or reason why Roland's leg snapped so violently and grotesquely.

"It was a freak thing, just dumb luck," Wahl said.

Wahl and Aggies coach Mark Turgeon said they expect Roland to spend at least one night under the hospital care of Texas A&M doctors before he gets a chance to return to his native Dallas, perhaps by the end of the weekend.

Roland's college career is almost certainly over, barring an unexpected medical waiver from the NCAA -- which states players must play in no more than 20 percent of his team's games before getting injured and requesting a fifth-year of eligibility. Roland has played in all 11 of the Aggies' 29 regular-season games.

Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon said he will talk with Roland in a couple of weeks to see if he wants to pursue a medical hardship waiver with the NCAA.

"If ever a kid deserves it, it's him," a bleary-eyed Turgeon said outside Roland's hospital room on Wednesday.

Wahl sees no reason why Roland can't resume playing after rehabilitation that will last well into the new year.

"I've overcome injuries before. I'll just have to do it again," Roland said from his hospital bed Wednesday, remembering the torn labrum in his shoulder he played through for weeks a couple of years ago.

Roland's injury and his teammates' tearful reaction to it have spawned nearly a 1,000 get-well messages to the hospital from around the country. Washington coach Lorenzo Romar and Huskies senior leader Quincy Pondexter, who was near Roland when he fell and though the loud snap had to be Roland's back smacking the floor, visited their opponent and brought gift bags.

"I prayed for him," Pondexter said.

Turgeon, athletics assistant Dustin Clark and Aggies leading scorer Donald Sloan -- who's known Roland since eighth grade in Dallas and considers him a brother -- have been by Roland's side since the game ended. They stayed behind as the rest of the shocked Aggies returned to College Station Wednesday morning.

Despite the gruesome sight and sound of his injury, the shock it gave his team and the fact his college career is likely finished, Roland said will not get discouraged.

"This is not a situation I'm going to be down about," he said through grogginess from medication.

"I believe everything happens for a reason. I just don't know it yet."

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