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January 28, 2010At about 9:45 a.m. Thursday morning, Lewis Jackson was given the go-ahead from doctors to play against Wisconsin that night.
At about 9:45 p.m., he was beaming to have just done so, playing in his first game of the year and contributing to an important Boilermaker win, a 60-57 decision over the 16th-ranked Badgers.
"I have no pain, which is kind of shocking," Jackson during Purdue's post-game press conference. "I at least thought it'd be sore after the game. Honestly, I don't know if it's the adrenaline and maybe I'll feel it tonight, but right now it feels great. I hope it stays this way."
Just days before the season began, the sophomore returning starter at point guard severely injured his foot in practice, sustaining cartilage damage that would require surgery and jeopardize his chances to play at all this year.
But after all the talk of him redshirting faded, Jackson progressed well ahead of schedule, culminating into his insertion into the game Thursday night at the 13:06 mark of the first half.
"In my eyes, I didn't think (I'd be out a long time)," said Jackson, who did not break the foot. "I thought I could get back early. I told people ... my day was going to be the 19th (at Illinois).
"You just stay positive. If I'd sat there down in the dumps thinking, 'Late February,' maybe I wouldn't have been so focused. God blessed me to be a quick healer, my teammates supported me, I rehabbed hard and just got back out there a little early."
The lightning-quick point guard obviously is a welcomed re-addition to a Boilermaker team that won 16 of 19 games without him, but needs him nonetheless.
Jackson's speed and quickness give Purdue an element offensively it doesn't otherwise have and make him a defensive hound at the top of its end-to-end defensive pressure.
"It's great to have Lewis back," Robbie Hummel said. "He's a key part of our team. He adds a dimension to our team that without him we don't really have. ... He's so fast and such a good ball-handler."
Purdue, barring anything unforeseen, will now have those assets for its final 10 regular season games, then the postseason.
Jackson said he's been getting antsy to get back on the floor.
"My trainer and Coach (Matt) Painter and my team, they were kind of cautious with me," he said. "I was trying to sneak into certain drills and they'd let me do certain things, but we wanted to wait until the doctor fully cleared me before I jumped back into full contact. Once we decided I could go, it felt great and Coach let me (play)."
Painter admitted to being surprised lately how much his guard's been able to handle in practice, actually getting through the entirety of a few of them.
"Obviously you could see tonight with a couple of turnovers that there's a little rust there," Painter said, "like when Trevon Hughes just took it from him. I don't think that last year at this time, that would have happened on the court with his quickness.
"I think it was a good first game for him, just to get that rust off. Now, he needs to make improvement and move forward to the second."
In 11 minutes, Jackson made his only shot - a typical Jackson drive to the basket off a hesitation dribble - and grabbed three rebounds. He did turn it over twice, however.
Jackson said he expects to be fully back to old form after "two or three" games.
"I think it was a good first game for him, just to get that rust off," Painter said. "Now, he needs to make improvement and move forward to the second."
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