CARBONDALE – The only thing missing from Jonathan Wiley’s comeback was an ovation.
Wiley tore all the ligaments in his knee in SIU’s New Year’s Eve game with Drake. His career seemed to be over.
In SIU’s 74-57 win over Bradley Sunday, Wiley gutted out 13 minutes. He scored four points, perfect in four attempts from the free throw line, grabbed four rebounds and handed out an assist. Not bad for a guy playing on one leg.
Wiley entered the game Sunday with 14:12 remaining in the first half. He had been sent to the scorer’s bench earlier, but play didn’t stop until it was time for the first media break. He entered the game unnoticed.
“The only thing I was disappointed in was I didn’t get to sub him in for the crowd,” said Saluki coach Barry Hinson. “I subbed him, and I’ll be danged we had a media timeout. I just thought ‘This kid deserves to have an unbelievable roar when he comes on the floor.’ He’ll get that.”
And, when Wiley got on the floor it didn’t take him long to get into the thick of things.
Within 20 seconds, he pulled down a missed 3-pointer by Bradley’s Luqman Lundy. Wiley was fouled on the play by Luuk Van Bree and ended up sprawled out on the floor. After a brief second, Wiley pulled himself up and jogged down the floor.
“I cringed,” Hinson said. “Our crowd cringed. I heard them. I think that was probably the best thing that could happen.”
Wiley practiced just twice before making his comeback. Despite that lack of preparation, he was able to play 13 minutes.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it,” said Saluki guard Aaron Cook. “I would have been dead tired. I know he was tired but he found a way. He kept pushing. He did what he always does. I’m really blown away by how he did it.”
Neither Hinson or Wiley’s teammates were surprised that he found his way back onto the floor.
“No, Jon’s a warrior,” said junior guard Sean Lloyd. “I was happy for him. He brings back a lot of stuff we need.”
“I’ve been around him too long,” Hinson said. “He only has one speed. I talked to the doctor over and over about it. It will be interesting to see tomorrow how he feels because of the adrenaline and all that.”
It was fitting Wiley made his comeback Sunday. His photo was on the game program and on ticket stubs.
The Salukis return to action at home Wednesday against Missouri State.