South Dakota

South Dakota basketball’s Plitzuweit ‘ready to go’ after knee injury

The hardest part for South Dakota men’s basketball guard AJ Plitzuweit was patience.

“I’m an impatient person by nature,” said Plitzuweit, “as a competitor and just go, go, go.”

Plitzuweit was sidelined for more than a year and a half after suffering a knee injury ahead of the 2020-21 Summit League tournament. When he first suffered the injury, that moment felt so far away. But ahead of the 2022-23 season, when the Coyotes’ point guard, who recently averaged 19 points and 3.9 assists per game, is expected to return, just talking about a return to the court means the world to me.

South Dakota men’s basketball head coach Eric Peterson told the Argus Leader in April that Plitzuweit was completely cleared and the team would take its own pace to get him back into full practice. On his return, Plitzuweit found that there was a process: he had to “get back on his feet”. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever be the same player again, but he feels more mature and ready to make his best contribution.

“Everyone says, ‘What percentage is he?’ I have no idea,” Peterson said. “But I know he looks good and he’s getting better and improving every day.”

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After Plitzuweit was out last year, he had to look at the game from a new perspective. Plitzuweit said former head coach Todd Lee and his staff would invite him to film sessions and oversee drills with coaching so he could stay on the team even if he couldn’t make an impact on the court.

His team has changed since his last assignment. When he was the Coyotes’ prolific point guard, off-ball contributors honed their ball skills to put together a season that was “better than we expected.” Junior guard Kruz Perrott-Hunt increased his scoring average from 7.0 to 15.0. Senior guard Mason Archambault went from 5.0 to 14.5. Plitzuweit said that the past year without him “went well as a team”.

“I’m adapting well,” said Plitzuweit. “And my confidence is, you know, finally getting to the point where I feel ready to go.”

He wouldn’t call it “fear,” but he moved hesitantly, as he was used to moving when he returned to the practice site. He feels “good”, “ready to go”, although he admitted to getting back to where he felt before the injury “is yet to come”.

But during the rehab process, he would take every opportunity to push. The South Dakota men’s basketball coaching staff would oversee his safety then and now, but he won’t stop now.

“I’ve grown,” said Plitzuweit. “I’ve seen things off the pitch and learned from them and adapted. So I’m just thinking the leadership aspect of acting as one of these older guys to teach these younger guys the ropes.”

Follow Sioux Falls Argus Leader Reporter Michael McCleary on Twitter @mikejmccleary.

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