Healing stronger

The basketball brotherhood helps Bronson Kessinger get back in the fray.

Bronson Kessinger’s basketball world changed drastically in a matter of moments.

His drive to the basket in a game between Corydon Central and Salem High School ended with a shove by a defender and Kessinger being sent directly to the ground from mid-air. The result was multiple leg fractures and a broken wrist.

After the immediate medical attention and surgery, the next moment of recovery came when Kessinger received some clarity from a handful of states away.

Kevin Ware had already been down a path similar to what Kessinger faced. Ware was playing for the University of Louisville in March 2013 when he landed awkwardly after trying to block a 3-pointer. A compound leg fracture had happened in a nationally televised Elite Eight contest. Kessinger knew of Ware’s injury and recovery from a distance, but Kessinger was about to get some added reassurance as he headed into the unknown.


Bronson Kessinger handles the ball during a 63-52 win over Northern Illinois at Hulman Center on Nov. 30.

“Somehow, Kevin got my number and he texted me,” Kessinger said. “It was like a novel of encouragement. Stay positive.”

The next source of stability came from the Sycamore basketball program. Indiana State Coach Greg Lansing, the assistant coaches and training staff knew that Kessinger faced a lengthy road to recovery. The goal was to give him some solid ground from which to work.

“There is no way you can know how somebody would respond to that (injury),” Lansing said. “It was possible that he can’t play again or it’s possible he could come back to 100 percent. We were following through on our end of the bargain. Bronson is a great kid, and we wanted him to be part of the program.”

The sharp detour for the 6-foot-8 Indiana State freshman forward with a determined, deep voice came in January 2015. Before Kessinger could get to the goal of playing in an official game, there was a process waiting that would keep him out of game action for nearly two years after the injury.

He had to strengthen his leg and recover to the point of being able to practice. That process involved working with the training staff and avoiding the trap of trying to return too quickly.

“You have to listen to your body,” Kessinger said. “Kevin had felt like he came back too soon, and he got kicked (in the leg) during a game.”

That did not derail Ware’s college comeback. He later transferred to Georgia State University and was part of another NCAA Tournament team in Atlanta with the Panthers in the 2014-15 season. For Kessinger, there was still that matter of reaching the routine stages of practice sessions again.

“Anytime you have a severe injury, you are with this person (a trainer) every day,” Lansing said. “It’s a painstaking process. Gradually, he was able to work out with Sean Rogers. It had to be a scary thing to have not played in two years and then you come back and it’s not an AAU or a casual game. It’s a Division I game.”

Bronson Kessinger dunks a basket during the home opener against Northern Illinois.

Bronson Kessinger dunks a basket during the home opener against Northern Illinois.

Kessinger reached that preliminary practice goal during last season that served as a red-shirt year eligibility wise. While Kessinger was dealing with the typical trials that freshmen face in adjusting to Division I competition, he did make quick progress in the eyes of his peers.

“(His teammates) already liked the guy because he is a great teammate,” Lansing said. “But to see what he had to go through to not even play with his teammates for a year … that is instant respect.”

Kessinger was still months away from that moment when his mom, Dee Dee, and dad, Tom, would be able to see their son officially take the court in a game. The celebration came during what could be considered a basic moment for many players — a Nov. 3 exhibition game against Rose-Hulman. Kessinger scored eight points in six minutes in an effort that included a dunk.

“It was great to be on the court again,” Kessinger said. “It felt like trying to walk again. I’m still trying to get my legs under me. Being on the bench felt like a coaching perspective. I am trying to do the little things while I have been getting acclimated to the speed of the game.”

As Kessinger approaches that next process of making progress during the ongoing season, he said he feels like he is a part of something special. He also circles back to the special assistance he received from Kevin Ware when things looked bleak. Ware did have one request of Kessinger.

“Kevin helped me out a lot,” Kessinger said. “He said, ‘You need to be the next person up who is helping out somebody who is going through this.’”

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