CHALON-SAÔNE, France — Dont call it a comeback.
By JORDAN WINNETT
Special to The Star
That was former Missouri basketball star Marcus Denmon in January, taking to Twitter to announce his return.
Denmon, 22, who had signed with French club Élan Chalon following his summer league play with the Spurs, broke his right foot in the opening game of the season in October, leaving him sidelined until late January.
Interestingly, Denmon, the 59th overall selection of the 2012 draft broke his foot playing against the French club ASVEL, which potential future teammate Tony Parker partially owns.
Denmon had led his squad in scoring in the preseason with 16.7 points per game before the injury occurred.
I broke it coming off a pick-and-roll defense. I was sliding like a normal defensive slide and the foot rolled over. I felt it immediately, said Denmon following his clubs recent overtime victory against first-place Gravelines.
Denmon, a Kansas City native, was immediately flown back to San Antonio where doctors performed the surgery and made sure everything was done correctly.
Denmon did most of his rehab in Texas before crossing the pond once again as he got closer to game action. Eager to suit up and play, he finally got his chance on Jan. 26 and said there were no lingering effects other than on-court rust. Hes averaging 11.6 points through seven games this season.
Its good now, Denmon said. The chances of me breaking it again are less now that they were before. I have no problems with my foot, its just a matter of getting game repetitions.
A former second-team All-American, Denmon had his playing time limited his first few games back, but in his most recent contest against Gravelines, the restrictions were clearly lifted.
Denmon, who starts at shooting guard for his third-place squad, scored 13 points in a game-high 43 minutes and took only a brief breather after the first quarter.
Any questions as to whether the foot was fully healed or would limit the former Tiger were put to rest late in the first quarter when Denmon drove baseline and soared through three defenders, completing an acrobatic reverse layup with enough hang time to turn under the hoop and shoot facing the basket on the other side.
Asked whether the 43 minutes were tough after more than three months off, Denmon smiled and shook his head.
I feel good, Denmon said. I think I need it, just to get back in rhythm. With games being so spread out, only once a week, its tough to try to find (my rhythm), but I just got to work hard in practice and try to find it there.
Its no coincidence the 6-foot-3 guard wound up in France, as the Spurs have quite the French connection with Parker, Boris Diaw, and Nando de Colo currently on its roster.
Élan Chalon is the biggest club in France as it splits time playing the Euroleague against the best competition from all across Europe (unfortunately Denmon missed all the Euroleague season due to injury).
The atmosphere in Chalons Le Colissée arena is very college-like as a capacity crowd of 5,000 relentlessly screams and whistles, seemingly living and dying with every play, while a small band plays the entire 40 minutes.
Increased playing time as well as his role within the club were two of the reasons Denmon and the Spurs thought signing with Élan Chalon would be the best situation for the combo guard.
This team allowed me to play the one which was an important decision when looking at clubs, he said. I get to play on the ball and off and play 43 minutes.
Denmon plays mainly off the ball at the shooting guard position, but does bring the ball up in a back-up role. The team runs a lot of its offense through Denmon and former Duke Blue Devil and 2006 lottery pick Shelden Williams.
Denmon, a former Hogan Prep standout, played primarily at shooting guard with Mizzou in order to maximize his scoring ability, but in order for him to transition into an NBA role, the ability to play the point-guard position is key.
Im definitely capable, Denmon said. Its something Ive been working on since college. I do it every day in practice and it has definitely become one of my strengths.
But, playing the one wont limit Denmons desire to score.
A lot of times position and size have too much focus, Denmon said. Top point guards in the NBA now can score. There are only a handful of traditional pass-first point guards left.
Denmon quickly faced adversity on the court, but the difficulties off the hardwood can be challenging as well for someone who stayed in state for college and is now living more than 4,500 miles from Kansas City.
As one of the youngest guys coming over straight out of college, it can definitely be tough, but you have to be a man and be mentally prepared when you come over, Denmon said.
Unlike a larger metropolitan area like Paris, Chalon-Saône (pop. 48,000), which is less than 120 miles from Switzerland, has few English speakers.
But Denmon says he is adjusting well and receiving great support from the club.
Im learning (French). I can understand better than I can speak, Denmon said. The problem is more-so when youre out at a small place in town to eat, and nobody understands English. Its definitely something to adjust to, but everyone around the club speaks enough English, so its good.
Denmon is looking to finish out the season strong in France since he missed so much time and plans to be with the Spurs for the 2013 summer league.
A challenging situation overseas coupled with a humbling injury was reflected in a recent Denmon tweet:
Be thankful for what you have, instead of complaining about what you dont.