On Thursday afternoon, Michigan State issued one of the sadder press releases these eyes have ever seen: Spartans senior forward Delvon Roe announced his decision to retire from basketball, citing degenerative knee pain.
Roe, it should be noted, is 21 years old. (He'll be 22 on Oct. 3.) Needless to say, players don't retire at the age of 22 very often. Of course, most don't deal with the kinds of recurring physical problems Roe has suffered since missing his senior high school season to a knee injury. Before that injury, Roe was a highly touted prospect, the centerpiece of Tom Izzo's 2008 class. Since then, he's been a reduced but still effective player, one that constantly reinvented his game and battled through his injuries to contribute as much as he could despite his maladies.
Now, unfortunately, he's calling it quits. He will remain on scholarship and is on track to graduate next spring, but he won't be playing basketball anymore. According to Roe, the pain was just too much.
“This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make," Roe said in a statement. "It feels that I’ve been playing through pain throughout my career at MSU, but the daily grind of basketball – the running, cutting, jumping – has finally taken its toll given the intensity required to play at our level. I started playing basketball because I loved the game, but the pain has taken that away and forced me to always think about just getting through the next few minutes or the next game. I don’t want to just ‘get through’ anymore. I’ve played on a leg and a half for most of my career, and that’s not fair to my teammates as they go through the daily grind.
“I have no regrets about my time at Michigan State. I’ve been blessed to be a three-year starter and be a part of back-to-back Big Ten Championships and Final Fours. I’m lucky to have been surrounded by great teammates that have become my brothers, and coaches that have provided great guidance. The medical and training staff have been phenomenal just to give me the opportunities that I’ve had. But as one of our doctors told me, the wear on my knee is like tread on a tire, and that once it’s gone, it doesn’t come back. It became time to consider my health moving forward.
Like I said: Press releases don't get much sadder than that. Just a few years ago, Roe was a bouncy high school star with a full and promising basketball career ahead of him. He had NBA talent. How tough is that?
Not as tough as Roe. Check the kid's game logs: For three years, despite the kind of knee pain that makes you want to quit playing basketball just so you don't hurt anymore, Roe never missed a game. He battled his knees as hard as he could, but the knees won in the end.
“We’ve built our program at Michigan State on toughness, and I’ve never had a player who played through more pain than Delvon," Izzo said in a statement. "I feel bad for Delvon, because I know how much basketball means to him. It’s a shame that most Spartans never got to see the player I recruited. And yet he found a way to contribute and be a valuable part of two Final Fours and Big Ten Championships just by his will and desire. Last year, he unselfishly reinvented himself into a defensive stopper that the team needed. For him to call it a career at this time shows the severity of his pain. I look forward to having him remain around the program this year as he finishes his degree.”
There's no getting around it; this is a sad end to a once-promising career. The silver lining is that Roe is on pace to graduate from Michigan State with his degree in 2012. Better yet, Roe -- by all accounts a great kid with a wide range of interests outside hoops -- may now have the time to focus fully on his acting, which he discovered a passion in 2010 after he scored a role in an MSU theater production of William Shakespeare's comedy "As You Like It." Besides, who knows what more basketball may have done to his knees? Leaving now makes Roe much less likely to spend his later life limping every time he has to walk up a flight of stairs.
It had to be a brutal decision, but it's impossible to argue with Roe's choice. I have a feeling Spartans fans would agree.
“I will always be a Spartan," Roe said in a statement. "The support of everyone in the University and the fan base has left an impression that will last a lifetime. It remains my goal to walk across the court on senior night."