High School Basketball

Rare, severe injury not halting Larsen’s basketball dreams

Ferndale's Dane Larsen is introduced before the start of a game against Lynden on Thursday, Jan. 28, at Lynden High School.
Ferndale's Dane Larsen is introduced before the start of a game against Lynden on Thursday, Jan. 28, at Lynden High School. eabell@bhamherald.com

Ferndale’s Dane Larsen was reduced to crawling up and down stairs. He woke up in the morning hardly able to walk.

This was the plight two years ago of one of the Golden Eagles’ brightest budding prep basketball players.

“I thought it was knee pain, just the regular stuff,” Larsen said. “The Ibuprofen, I took more than a normal person should take. I kept playing on it until it got to the point to where I just couldn’t walk anymore.”

The past year for Larsen has been trying, one that’s required heaps of mental and physical fortitude. But ever since Larsen was advised not to play basketball again before his sophomore year, he’s showed a desire and commitment to Ferndale’s basketball program that’s inspired his teammates and first-year coach Jason Owens.

And if it appears Larsen, a 6-foot-5 left-handed junior guard, plays the game with a new lease on his basketball life, it’s because he has one. Rather, he created it through hard work and months of rehab.

Larsen, whose played since he was 5, was on JV his freshman year and was a swing player who suited up for varsity games. Following a year of averaging double figures on the JV level, Larsen’s knee pain intensified until he was forced to see a doctor.

An MRI revealed a 2-centimeter by 2-centimeter break in the part of the left femur bone that delves into the knee joint, leaving a diagnosis of Osteochondritas dissecans — a joint condition in which bone underneath the cartilage of a joint dies due to lack of blood flow.

Larsen required crutches for four months but declined major surgery in an effort to preserve his basketball career.

“(The doctor) said it was extremely rare,” Larsen said. “That was another thing, like, ‘Why is this happening to me? Why did I get this, and maybe it’s just a blessing in disguise.’ I just wasn’t really sure, and I was trying to find an answer for that.”

The injury knocked out Larsen’s sophomore season, but his presence was still felt at every game but one, at every practice and every team meeting.

Once off crutches, Larsen for six months traveled to the University of Washington once a week visiting the team’s physician where he rehabbed his knee and built back up a completely deteriorated quad muscle.

“It’s got nothing to do with me, but I tore both ACLs in college, so I understand what it takes to come back,” Owens said. “There is no one cheering you on, there is no one around. It’s only your desire to get back on the court.”

Three weeks before the start of this season Larsen got the news he’d been hoping for — a green light from his doctor to return to basketball.

Larsen was voted team captain by his peers with fellow junior Sky Freeman and is considered by Owens “the hardest working kid on the team.”

The Ferndale junior has started every game this winter but has his minutes monitored. His knee hasn’t reached full strength. He’s averaging 6.4 points per game with a season-high 17 during a league loss against Squalicum.

“As we say every game, ‘Can’t wait to see your breakthrough game, Dane, can’t wait to see it,” Owens said. “Because he has all the tools to be a really good basketball player.”

How good?

“Dane is kind of humble, but Dane can step on the floor and score 40 points,” Owens added. “I’ve watched him in practice make 20 3s in a row.”

With another offseason to rehab and get 100 percent, Larsen hopes he can make up for lost time and reach some goals, such as playing college ball. But now Larsen looks at the game through a more appreciative lens.

“I just want to keep playing and be out here running around with friends and playing basketball,” Larsen said. “That’s really what I’ve realized. It’s not necessarily about scoring the most points. ... It could be worse, and I’ve just kept that mindset that I can’t take this for granted.”