Kirk Cole hoping to lead Southwest Covenant on 'far run' in state basketball tournament despite MCL tear
YUKON — Shortly after Kirk Cole’s season started, it nearly ended.
The senior guard at Southwest Covenant was trying to help lead his team to a comeback against Luther in its first game of the season. Earlier in the contest, Cole had surpassed the 1,000-point scoring mark for his career.
That’s when a Luther defender took a tumble, directly into Cole’s right knee. He felt the pain immediately. Cole tried to play, but he wasn’t able to put any pressure on his right leg when trying to make a cut. It just felt weak.
“I thought I was being dramatic,” Cole said. “But then I tried to cut on it, and something just felt out of place.”
Cole had partially torn the medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Leading up to his doctor’s appointment to find out what happened, Cole was fighting with the fact his season might be finished. An MCL injury isn’t as bad as an anterior cruciate ligament tear, which is the main ligament in the knee that when injured requires surgery and a rehab process that can take up to a year.
Yet the news was encouraging. Cole’s injury was just an MCL tear, which meant six weeks sitting out while resting and rehabbing the injury. It also meant his senior season wasn’t over after only one game.
“I just had to have a positive attitude about all of it,” Cole said.
The rehab process started immediately. Cole started going every day and approached it as he would a game.
He knew rehabbing intensely would give him the best chance at getting on the court as close to 100% as he could be. Although his knee wouldn’t be fully healed until after the season, he wanted to come back and help give his team a chance to make the state tournament again.
Between rehab and school, there were basketball games. Cole sat on the bench, encouraging his teammates and anticipating the end of a six-week layoff. Then in mid-January, Cole made his return. Sporting a brace on his right knee, he picked up right where he left off, as one of the best scorers in Class A.
He helped Southwest Covenant win the Coyle Tournament in late January, averaging 23 points per game. After starting 3-3, the Patriots are 10-3 with the playoffs beginning Thursday. Although Cole has played only half the season, his contributions are unmeasurable.
“He elevates the whole program,” Patriots coach Kevin Cobbs said. “He has got a great attitude and never complains. Without questions, he’s the best scorer I have ever coached. He makes everyone around him better.”
Southwest Covenant begins its quest for the state tournament Friday, when it faces Central Marlow in district play. With a win, it would advance to regionals regardless of its result Saturday against Carnegie.
But there’s no question. With Cole in the lineup, the Patriots have a chance to make a run.
“I feel like we’ve been developing and getting better as a team,” Cole said. “I hope we can make a far run.”
Reporter Cameron Jourdan covers high school sports across the Oklahoma City metro and state. Have a story idea for Cameron? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Cam_Jourdan. Support Cameron’s work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at oklahoman.com/subscribe or by using the link at the top of this page.