July 16, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
The shackles are slowly coming off of Ben Lammers, but if you didn’t see the ice bag on his right knee you wouldn’t know by talking to him that Georgia Tech’s new center had any limitations.
In his second month on campus, the 6-foot-10, 235-pound pivot man is not allowed to participate in everything that his new teammates do while playing pickup basketball or running drills for head coach Brian Gregory and his staff.
But he’s getting there.
Lammers is about six months removed from dislocating his right knee cap and suffering cartilage damage in the joint while playing a game. He had surgery to clean out torn cartilage, and the process of re-strengthening his knee and leg goes on . . . tediously.
While he suffered some ligament damage with his injury, Lammers said that surgery was not needed to repair that. Doctors have allowed ligaments to heal themselves, which is why his physical activity has been so tightly structured.
Doctors and team officials recently approved more activity for the San Antonio native, and he’s begun jumping although not too aggressively.
He’s champing for more action.
“They didn’t want me to jump until a few days ago so what I would do is little follow-throughs and dribbling drills,” he explained Wednesday. “Now, they have me doing little jumpers for two or three sessions.
“I was cleared by my doctor in San Antonio, but your legs get so weak . . . they’ve just been having me on the stair master machine and things like that. I’m doing little drills around the basket to get a little of that hook back.”
Lammers’ reputation suggests that he arrived on The Flats as a player somewhat in the mold of departed center Daniel Miller. He is a strong rebounder, he studies nuances of the game and he has a defensive orientation.
He had more than a little hook going before his injury, too.
Before his injury, he averaged 16.3 points and 10 rebounds for Alamo Heights High. As a junior, he averaged 14.6 points, 10.6 points and 4.6 blocks.
It is too early to guess wisely where Lammers might end up in the Tech rotation as a freshman, but he’s working at it.
In the meantime, there is some guesswork to his major.
“I’m going to sample classes as a freshman, but right now I’m thinking mechanical engineering,” he said. “It will be some sort of engineering.”
With a father, Chris, who played football at Texas A&M, an older brother, Nick, who played soccer at Colorado College, and a sister, Allie, who is on academic scholarship at A&M, Lammers comes from diverse stock.
He played football himself through his freshman year in high school before realizing that basketball could be a ticket to his future.
Tech was not on his early radar, and he did not know much about the Yellow Jackets before Gregory and his staff came calling during his junior season.
Only when the recruiting process became more serious did he learn more about what Georgia Tech. Upon research, and his visits, he liked what he saw. He also considered Marquette and Miami, and Stanford was in the mix. Once he learned about Tech, the Cardinal fell out of the mix and he never visited Palo Alto.
“It was like when I started to seriously narrow down my schools that I started to pay more attention [to Tech],” he said. “Georgia Tech was definitely my parents’ favorite.”
At about the same time last fall that he signed a letter of intent to attend Tech, Lammers launched into his senior season only to have it end in January.
“I was going up for a rebound, and somebody knocked me sideways so when I landed . . . [The kneecap] popped out and popped back in real quick,” he recalled. “It wasn’t extremely painful, but you knew it was a bad injury. I was told that when I come back for fall semester I should be good to go 100 percent.”
Most of the burden of rehabilitation has been physical until recently.
The psychological burden of being sidelined and physically limited for so long has been difficult. Now, there is a different psychological challenge.
Lammers is learning to trust his refurbished knee.
“So far, it’s been physical because I haven’t been doing a whole lot to test it,” he said. “Starting now, it will be mental because when I go to jump off this right leg . . . I have to get used to it.”
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