Pilots' Wintering takes knee injury in stride
Early end to college career won't deter his pro hoops bid
Alec Wintering is doing his best to take the premature end to his college basketball career in stride.
The Portland Pilots senior point guard suffered a season-ending knee injury last Thursday in a game at San Francisco. An MRI revealed Wintering tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
"It's unfortunate, but I had a great career here," Wintering says. "And I'm still a part of the team. I'll do what I can to help the guys, and I'll work on the leadership part of my game."
This was Wintering's fourth year starting for the Pilots and his third as a team captain. He finishes with 568 assists, five shy of Darwin Cook's school record.
While disappointed to miss out on the record, Wintering says he has no regrets and is confident Pilots fans recognize and will remember his contributions.
"It's been a great experience," he says. "We've been able to beat some good teams, and I've been able to do some good things individually."
Wintering ranks second all-time in steals (177), fifth in points (1,548) and starts (110) and sixth in 3-point percentage (.401). He owns the Pilots record for free throws made (499). As a sophomore in 2014-15, he established Portland single-season records for assists (187) and minutes (1,064).
The injury happened in the second half at USF. Wintering went up for a shot after coming to a two-footed jump stop. The knee hurt right away, but after resting for a few minutes Wintering returned to play four more minutes and hit one jumper and a couple of foul shots.
Wintering says he became more concerned about the injury on Friday when the knee stiffened up.
He plans to have surgery in the next few weeks — after talking with several doctors before selecting a surgeon.
The Charlotte, North Carolina native says he discussed options with his family and decided to remain in Portland for the surgery. By having the procedure done here, he can continue to support his teammates and complete the one class he needs to graduate in May with a degree in marketing.
The training staff at the University of Portland will help him find a surgeon, and coach Terry Porter's experience and connections in the community might help him decide on the best one.
Wintering is certain the injury won't derail his plans to play pro basketball.
"I'm going to play somewhere," he says. "I'll definitely be playing again. There is not a doubt in my mind."
Once he graduates and gets through the surgery, Wintering plans to return to Charlotte to rehabilitate and prepare for the pro game.
His immediate focus is to help sophomore Jazz Johnson and freshman Andre Ferguson, who will take on the point-guard job Wintering held for almost four full seasons.
"With the point guards, the easiest thing for me to help with is translating things I see out on the floor for them," Wintering says, noting he offered help from the bench during the Pilots' Saturday game at undefeated Gonzaga only hours after learning of the ACL tear. The teams will meet again at 5 p.m. Monday at Chiles Center.
Wintering says he has always wanted to coach when his playing career ends. He's viewing this twist of fate as an early internship opportunity.
"Sitting on the bench, you get a different point of view," he says. "I can share things I see with them and give them as much help as I can."
Wintering says the support of his teammates and the UP community is helping him deal with the disappointment of missing the rest of the season.
"With ACL injuries, everyone thinks of them as the one of the worst kinds of injury for athletes," he says. "But I know I'm going to be all right. I have real good support around me."