Wood's Oliver learned hard lesson about hoops

Deion Oliver will play in the state final on Friday.
Deion Oliver will play in the state final on Friday. (RICK O'BRIEN / Staff)
Posted: December 13, 2013

Don't look for Archbishop Wood's Deion Oliver to be playing any basketball, organized or other, after football season.

Last January, after the Vikings' run to the PIAA Class AAA state final, the offensive lineman blew out his right knee while attempting a dunk in a pickup hoops game. That resulted in surgery and months of rehabilitation.

"My knee twisted inward," Oliver said. "I didn't feel a ton of pain at first. When I had it checked out the next day, it showed that I had torn my anterior cruciate ligament and both menisci."

The 6-foot-5, 273-pound senior guard underwent reconstructive surgery at the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in Pensacola, Fla.

Weeks earlier, renowned orthopedist James Andrews had repaired Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III's torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments. Andrews also operated on 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore, who suffered three torn ligaments during his senior season at South Carolina.

"It feels good now," Oliver said of the knee. "I'm more explosive than I was before the surgery. I still wear a brace, but I really don't think about the injury when I'm on the field."

At 7 p.m. Friday, with Oliver and company trying to create gaping holes for junior tailback Jarrett McClenton, Wood (12-2) will face Bishop McDevitt (14-1) of Harrisburg in the Class AAA state final at HersheyPark Stadium.

Three months after his surgery, Oliver returned to Andrews for two weeks of post-operative treatment. Also instrumental in his comeback was the work he did with Shon Grosse, a strength and conditioning coach at Wood and a physical therapist.

Oliver could only watch during the early part of training camp, sat out the team's first scrimmage, and was a part-time contributor in the first two weeks of the season.

"It took a while for me to get up to speed," Oliver said. "At first, I was falling all over the place. Things started clicking for me, probably, in Week 3 against Frankford."

Oliver, who is drawing Division I-A and I-AA interest, is joined up front by center Ryan Neher (6-3, 240), fellow guard Shawn Scroger (6-2, 260), tackles Ryan Bates (6-5, 285) and Tom Cardoza (6-1, 220), and tight ends Jake Cooper (6-3, 230) and Christian Lohin (6-3, 225).

Oliver, of Buckingham, transferred to Wood from Central Bucks East before his junior year.

"I just thought it would be a better environment for me, including academically," he said. "The style of learning is different at Wood. The assimilation process was easier."

A strong student, Oliver, 17, takes first-track classes in statistics and anatomy. He said his parents - Bob, who is 6-5 and played hoops at Rutgers in the early 1980s, and Denise - "have pushed me to be the best student I can be."

Oliver, who plans to study pre-med in college, is being recruited by Columbia, Harvard, Lehigh, Stanford, Villanova, and Yale. A Stanford assistant is expected to be at Friday's game.

Moving up. Imhotep Charter, which will face District 7's South Fayette for the Class AA state crown at noon Saturday, has petitioned the PIAA to upgrade to AAA beginning next school year.

That would mean a possible clash between Imhotep and Wood in the District 12 Class AAA final next November. With the number of anticipated returning players for both powers, it could be quite the battle.

Milestone. In what is a first, a District 12 crew will officiate a state football final. The event will be the Class A championship game between District 2's Old Forge and District 7's Pittsburgh North Catholic at 1 p.m. Friday.

The crew is composed of Mike Downs (referee), Dave Parfitt (umpire), Keith Foster (head judge), Lee Page (line judge), Artie Woods (side judge), Wayne Thomas (field judge), and Ernie Gallagher (back judge).


robrien@phillynews.com

@ozoneinq

www.inquirer.com/ozone

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