Stanford coach John Dunning says knee injury “very hard to deal with”
|Stanford's Inky Ajanaku (12)|
Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Stanford senior-to-be Inky Ajanaku—projected by many to be perhaps the best volleyball player in the Pac-12, if not the nation, this fall—will have to undergo an unspecified procedure this summer on her injured right knee.
The mishap occurred June 9, 2015, during the fourth set of a match in Lima, Peru, against Columbia. Ajanaku was playing middle blocker for the US National Team during the Pan Am Cup.
“She hit a ball and landed,” Stanford head coach John Dunning told Volleyblog Seattle during a telephone conversation this afternoon. “She hurt her right knee.”
Dunning said USA Volleyball arranged to have Ajanaku flown back to Palo Alto immediately, where she was able to see her doctor. “She has to have something fixed,” he said. “But before they can go in and fix it, they usually make you rehab. If there’s any swelling, the swelling has to go down.”
Citing university privacy rules, Dunning said he could not disclose the exact nature of the injury nor the type of procedure she’ll undergo. “I’m sure later on we’ll find out more,” he said, “and know more about what will happen with our season. But right now, (Ajanaku’s availability) is in question, for sure, because she got hurt.”
Ajanaku was Volleyball Magazine’s 2014 National Player of the Year, and a First-Team AVCA All-American in both 2013 and 2014. After reaching the Final Four last season, Stanford is considered among the favorites to return again this December. Besides Ajanaku, the team is loaded with stars, including returning All-Americans Madi Bugg (First Team), Jordan Burgess (First Team), and Merete Lutz (Second Team), among others.
Most members of the US National Team have already graduated from college. Occasionally, however, especially promising undergraduates are invited to train with the team during summer, perhaps participating in an international tournament. Last summer, former USC All-American Ebony Nwanebu injured her back while playing with the National Team after her freshman season. Nwanebu—the National Freshman of the Year in 2013—saw limited action with the Trojans last fall, and has since transferred to Texas.
When asked about the risks and rewards of undergraduates playing on the National Team, Dunning paused. Earlier this month, he said, he attended Stanford’s end-of-season awards ceremony honoring top Cardinal athletes from all sports. “And,” he said, “at least half of the athletes who were honored weren’t there because they were with their (respective) National Teams. For me, that helped me put it into perspective as to how should I feel about this.”
Even so, those feelings are still being sorted. “It’s very hard for me to deal with the fact that Inky’s hurt right now. I’m sad for her that she didn’t get more of an experience with the National Team. And that she’s having to deal with being injured right now.”
“Inky’s a very special athlete, a very special person,” said Dunning. “She has a lot of personality. She’s a strong person. She has a very close, very supportive family. She has lots of people around her that will help her. She’s a wonderful young woman. Everybody learns from all the experiences they go through. Some things are tougher than others. When an athlete is out and hurt for a while, it’s very hard. I’m sure she’ll learn from the experience. I think she will deal with it in a very mature way. And do everything she can to recover.”