NORMAN — Up the south ramp, behind a glass door, in the bowels of Lloyd Noble Center is a yellowing poster inside a frame that hangs from a cinder block wall.
Inked at the top of the poster is the phrase: “How are you feeling today?”
Below the question are drawings and emotions: a sad face, an angry face, a depressed one and an anxious one. There is no face that defines a recent patient that inhabited the training room where the poster hangs.
“We need to add one to it,” Oklahoma athletics trainer Alex Brown said this week.
The face would be of Oklahoma freshman guard Buddy Hield and the feeling would be two words: “Fired up.”
On Feb. 11, Hield went to do what he so often does after making a basket: guard his man and try to force a turnover. Instead, he stepped awkwardly on the foot of a TCU defender and broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot, an injury which required surgery.
Now, he's fired up. What was supposed to come next was a long four-to-six week road to recovery.
Yet just four days after surgery, Hield was preparing himself for this week, even though it was only a possibility that he'd be back for the NCAA Tournament.
Sitting on the bench for the Sooners' first tournament game in three years, which will be against San Diego State at 8:20 p.m. Friday, wasn't an option for Hield.
“I want to go dancing with the team,” Hield said.
So at 9:40 p.m. Friday, thanks to Brown and a fast-healing body, Hield will dance — because what came after the break of his foot was the fight to recover for one big dance. What came next is the story of Hield and his healer.
* * *
It was just hours after surgery, and Hield sat on a red metal chair on the sidelines of OU's practice court with his leg propped on another chair. His bandaged foot hung off the edge.
Brown walked up with a sandwich and a bag of Lay's barbecue potato chips.
Still under some effects of the morphine from surgery, Hield downed the meal and, with his mouth often half-full, cheered on his team. Although his body was kept from the court, nothing could contain his voice.
The next day, Brown and Hield sat on the sidelines of practice again. Hield wore his practice jersey and a boot. His crutches rested next to him as he bounced a basketball and racquetball. He lost his dribble, and the racquetball slowly rolled away, out of Hield's reach.
Hield looked at Brown. Brown looked at Hield. Neither moved and a few seconds passed. Then Hield grabbed his crutch, and fished the racquetball back by hooking it with the part of the crutch he typically used to lean on. The ball came rolling back to Hield. He smiled and started dribbling again.
He progressed to sitting in a hard wood chair and shooting the ball while sitting. Yet, in media interviews, he refused to sit.
“I'm trying to be like y'all,” he said just a couple days after surgery. “Y'all are on two feet.”
He wanted to stand. He wanted to walk. He refused to see his injury as a setback.
“There are only comebacks,” he said.
But Day 1, when he initially broke his foot, seemed like a setback. That night, Hield was many of the faces on the poster in the training room. He was upset, confused, angry.
Then came Day 2. He had his mind set on positivity.
“You learn something from every athlete,” Brown said of the injured players he works with. “Buddy teaches everybody how to wake up every day and it be a good day.”
Hield smiled. His energy returned. He began to ask people: “How you feel?” and then answered for them “Fired up!”
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