During the 2018-19 season only five players on the Magdalena Steers varsity basketball team played all 30 games. Only one, Ty Vicente, graduated as a senior. The Steers went 25-5 and finished in the quarterfinals against the top seeded Pecos Panthers 57-45. Pecos would go on to win it all. A big key to the teams success was point guard Kyle Julian. Averaging 17.5 points per game, 5.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists Julian was a pivotal part of Magdalena’s pivitol season. What casual fans as well as opponents did not know is that he was struggling with a left knee injury early in the season until the end.
“I went up for a layup and landed wrong in one of our first games, but it was a minor tear,” he said. “It got to the point where I had a hard time sleeping and couldn’t run, but I was going through physical therapy in order to get ready to play in the game.”
The lingering injury had Head Coach Jory Mirabal having to work with one of his star players on a game by game basis to ensure his health as the long season progressed. Sheer will had Julian score 14 in two straight NMAA State Championship games to end the season.
“There were games that I had to tell coach Mirabal I had to sit out for a while. It was tough as an athlete because I always want to be out there. But when I go to plant it was a sharp feeling in my knee. When I try to jump off that knee it was painful. Of course if I’m not medically cleared there’s nothing I can do but otherwise I want to be out there with my brothers every game regardless.”
In July Kyle participated in various AAU basketball games when he re-aggravated the knee. Physical Therapists worked with the player before it was determined that it was not healing properly and the appropriate decision was to go under the knife.
On October 9th Julian traveled to Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque to have arthroscopic surgery on his knee for a torn Patellar Tendon. The surgery lasted over an hour to repair the knee. His parents Dora and James were there throughout the process which had Julian released the same day, leaving on a heavy dose of anesthesia. It was the first injury Julian had suffered in his career.
The initial stages were the biggest challenge for the athlete as he did not bend his knee for two weeks, showering with plastic around the cast, before getting his stitches removed. From there he went to a knee brace for several weeks.
Julian also noted that his teammates and the Magdalena coaching staff were very supportive in trusting a player dealing with an injury that was not visually apparent. He continues to work with Steers football coach Kelby Stephens and his staff three days a week at Socorro Physical Therapy and Fitness, with a particular enjoyment for pool exercises.
“The pool is a great way to get back on the court. My range of motion is about 95 percent but my strength is around 60. I have no problem walking on it but I’m not there yet. I have to look at the bigger picture and not rush out there and get injured again. I want to be on the court but I’m not going to lie about how my body feels with the physical therapists. I’m truly blessed in this process and all of the people that have supported me. Being able to avoid using painkillers for the most part is another example of how I’m so blessed.”
November 11 was the first time Julian was allowed to jog on the knee and will be limited in practice on December 2 before the big Steers Stampede tournament begins on December 5. Coach Stephens will work with Coach Mirabal as to wether or not Kyle is medically cleared to play.
Entering his senior season, Julian’s play on the court has attracted attention from multiple schools in both New Mexico and Texas.
“Once I get back out there I am going to play with no regrets and put everything on the line. This season is all about redemption not just for me but for our team. Last year a lot of people were overlooking us and that gives our team a lot of hunger heading into this season. Myself and the other seniors have to lead by example. This year I’m all about staying positive no matter what adversity we have to face.”