Kansas City, Mo. A 1998 knee surgery for former Kansas University men's basketball player Lester Earl didn't seem to have any short-term effects, since the Louisiana native went on to play in another 31 games at KU before more knee surgeries.
Nearly 10 years later, Earl found out about the long-term effects.
"I just went to the doctor last week to get my knee looked at because I was getting job offers to play overseas," Earl said at media day for the Kansas City Pro-Am at the Sports Radio 810 Zone on the Country Club Plaza. "And they told me that I was done. That pretty much closed the chapter of basketball in my book. They told me that my knee was the age of a 60-year-old man."
So now Earl, who last played in 2003 for Club Ourense Baloncesto in Spain, occupies his time with two things: raising his son and obtaining a business degree.
His hopes of getting a degree are pushed by a project he is working on with partner Dave Young Ross.
The tandem is developing a Web site called athletixnation.com as a place for athletes in all sports and all levels to interact with one another.
"We try to focus on education and connecting with other athletes and also have fun as well," Earl said. "... It's a fun project, and I want to have more business sense so if it becomes a business, I have the knowledge to do that as well."
The site is a way for athletes to converse about topics like training or rehab. And the forums aren't simply for the major sports. There are forums for sports such as BMX, figure skating and badminton.
"Once we put everything in place, it's going to be an exciting thing to be involved with online and offline," Earl said. "We're trying to focus on online, and offline as well, so we want to go in to do things for the community through AthletixNation to help youth get better."
Earl isn't the only former Jayhawk currently on the mend who is itching to stay close to the game.
Michael Lee is working through shoulder problems, which he doesn't actually consider to be rehab.
"When you think of rehab, you think of somebody going to see a trainer every day, and it's not that type of injury," said Lee, who could be at full-strength in one to five months. "Now it's just something I have to keep strong. I have to keep exercising and do stuff that I would naturally do if it wasn't hurt to keep the muscles around it strong."
Although Lee could play again, right now he is considering the possibility of returning to the KU team as a graduate assistant.
"None of that is finalized, but I'm wanting to come back to get my Master's in sports management and get into coaching," said Lee, who plans on taking his GRE test in July. "I ran the idea by (KU coach Bill Self), and he said it sounded like a good idea. But first and foremost, I can't do anything until I get back enrolled in school.
"I always wanted to play sports, but then I always wanted to coach at the same time. I didn't anticipate me coming back to coach this fast, but I just feel like the timing is right."
¢Earl feels Rush's pain: Earl said he definitely could relate with current Kansas basketball player Brandon Rush.
With Rush going through rehab following knee surgery, Earl said the most important thing for Rush to do is strengthen the muscles in his knee.
"What he's dealing with is getting the confidence back in his knee, just the worry in the back of his mind if he'll be back 100 percent or not," Earl said. "Once you get over that hump, everything else is going to come back in place. You just don't want any pain at all, which is something that I dealt with for over seven years.
"My situation was probably totally different from his because I never got the strength back in my knee. There was no muscle to protect my knee, and it caused more pain because there was pretty much no protection around it."