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IT'S NO surprise that Delvon Roe, the Spartans' junior forward, recently changed his major from criminal justice to theater. For most of last season he was pretending to be something he wasn't: a perfectly healthy player with pain-free knees.
Roe had already endured two knee operations, including microfracture surgery on his right knee that required seven months of rehab in 2007 when he was a senior at St. Edward High in Lakewood, Ohio. During a drill at Vince Carter's summer camp two years later, he says he felt "something weird" in the same knee—"the same pain I felt in high school, in the same spot." Dreading another surgery and more rehab, he kept the pain to himself, gritting his teeth through practice and popping painkillers hoarded from his previous surgeries. By late January, Roe was suffering so much that he tearfully fessed up to coach Tom Izzo.
But Roe's next MRI produced good news: He only needed meniscus surgery, and it could wait until after the season. The bad news: Roe had to get a cortisone shot in his butt before every remaining game. He played through pain that he says was "15 to 20" on a scale of 10.
Since his surgery last April, Roe's progress has been rapid. "There's no pain," he says. "My first step is much quicker and more explosive."
Izzo hopes the rest of the country gets to see the player he swooned over four years ago—an exceptional athlete who is both strong enough to bang in the paint and quick enough to guard on the perimeter. "Nobody here has seen what Delvon can do," says Izzo.
Roe is looking forward to helping the Spartans reach their third straight Final Four. Now that he has found another outlet for his acting—he was set to play Charles the Wrestler in a campus production of As You Like It this month—and a cure for his pain, what we'll see on the court this year, he says, is "the real me."
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
Coach Tom Izzo (16th season)
2009--10 record 28--9
Big Ten 14--4 (T-1st)