CJ Fredrick looks to make triumphant debut for UK after injury


CJ Fredrick

Samantha Money, Assistant Sports Editor

An athlete’s career can be completely sidetracked with the utter of a single word – surgery.

The road to recovery for these athletes can be rocky and hard to overcome.
For Kentucky basketball’s CJ Fredrick, however, the year off helped him grow mentally and physically.

A redshirt senior from Cincinnati, Fredrick transferred to Kentucky last season from the University of Iowa, but fans were unable to get to know him in his first season in Lexington as surgery on his hamstring prevented him from playing for the entire year.

It’s never easy being the new kid, and this was especially true for Fredrick, who realized he was going to have to make the decision to get surgery and step back from basketball for the season before even playing a game.

“Mentally that was a lot for me because I wanted to show my teammates that I was good and I belong here, and I couldn’t do that,” Fredrick said.

Before long, though, Fredrick was on the path of rehabilitation and cheering on his team from the sideline.

It’s never easy to get through the mental challenges of being out for the season, but Fredrick has almost nothing negative to say about the last year.

“I tell people that this year off actually kind of was like a blessing in disguise,” he said. “I was able to get my body in much better shape. The Big 10 and SEC are way different, so I was able to get in shape for what this kind of style of play was going to be like.”

Despite not being able to make his debut for Kentucky, Fredrick was able to find support from his teammates, most notably Kellen Grady, Fredrick’s roommate last year who even drove him to the hospital when his hamstring reached its breaking point.

“He (Grady) did a great job at making me feel a part of the team even when I wasn’t,” Fredrick said. “He definitely helped me through some tough times. This place is really a brotherhood.”

Fredrick noted that Blair Green, a Kentucky womens basketball player and Fredrick’s girlfriend, played a crucial role in keeping him positive during his recovery.

Just days before Fredrick tore his hamstring, Green experienced her own injury that caused her to sit out the entirety of her senior season.

Fredrick and Green were able to help each other in ways other friends and family could not because they knew exactly what the other was going through.

“This was one of the best years I’ve had from a happiness point, mental point and in my faith,” Fredrick said. “She’s a huge reason why.”

Now that both are back on the court, their motivation and support for each other has not wavered.

“Especially through the rehab process, coming and seeing her work hard makes me want to work even harder,” he said. “She’ll have a great year. I’m excited to be there and watch her and support her.”

Now that Fredrick has fully recovered from surgery, he spent the summer preparing to get back in the game.

One of the first big tests for his hamstring strength was the annual Big Blue Bahamas exhibition games over the summer.

“When I was out there it was still coming back to me,” Fredrick said. “I use the analogy that I felt like a little kid on training wheels. I was trying to get the training wheels off, but now I definitely think – it’s just kind of cheesy – I’m riding the bike. No training wheels.”

Excited to get back to playing in the regular season, Fredrick recalled exactly how he felt the first time he played at Rupp Arena during his high school basketball career.

“Those four days at Rupp were some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball,” he said.

Fredrick acknowledged that being close to his home and family played a huge role in his decision to transfer to Kentucky, with the support he receives from them going a long way.

With the regular season now just weeks away, Fredrick’s focus is how he can contribute to his team.

“Right now, my emphasis is really just helping my teammates, defensively being in gaps and trusting my teammates,” he said. “So right now, I’m just trying to focus on being really great on defense.”

Fredrick experienced Kentucky’s upsetting loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament with his team, even if he didn’t play, so he knows how hungry this team is to win.

“That loss hurt, and we don’t forget that,” he said. “It’s going to fuel the fire.”

Now, with that fire in his heart and his family and brothers around him, Fredrick finally looks to debut in Lexington at Big Blue Madness this Friday, Oct. 14.