It’s September 12, 2016 and Jay Sarkis is shooting jump shots at Daemen’s first individual group workout of the season. The jump shot he had used to make an immediate impact on the Wildcats as a freshman, a season in which he started 26 games averaging 8.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists. The same jump shot he also used to shoot an impressive 46 percent from the 3-point line. Little did he know, this was going to be the day he would shoot his last jump shot of the season.
“I was feeling good, shooting well” Sarkis recalled. “Then out of nowhere, I am at the top of the key, I rip the ball to the right, take two dribbles and make a jump stop to shoot. Right at that moment I knew something happened.”
He immediately collapsed on the ground holding his knee. He had just tore his ACL. The jump shot that had brought him so much success would now have him on the sidelines for the rest of the season.
Sarkis grew up in Rochester, about an hour away from Daemen College, where he starred at Greece Athena High School. There he was the starting point guard and a two-time All Greater Rochester Basketball player. High school was where Sarkis also encountered a season ending injury. In Feb. of his senior season, he broke his left forearm, placing uncertainty over where he would be playing college basketball. But Daemen had their eyes on the starting point guard from Greece Athena and offered him a full scholarship, reuniting him with his former teammate Deion Hamilton. Hamilton, heading into his junior season at Daemen, has been playing with Sarkis since middle school and has watched Sarkis develop over the last several years.
“In high school he was one of the leaders of the team along with myself” Hamilton said. “We just had a great chemistry and that transpired to our relationship off the court.”
Having the opportunity to play with one of his close friends once again certainly played a role in his decision to attend Daemen. But deep down he knew that the hour move to Daemen was the best decision for his college basketball career.
“I was happy coming to Daemen for many reasons” Sarkis said. “It is close enough for my family to come up and watch me play. Also many former Section V players have come here and have had success. Being on my own in college has developed me and helped me become more mature on and off the court.”
The maturation off the court was where Sarkis would have to focus on the most this past season. The estimated recovery time for a torn ACL is six to eight months, but it usually takes longer than that for athletes to truly recover and feel like themselves again. The road to recovery entails a long and strenuous process that can leave many athletes depressed and ready to give up.
“The recovery took a long time” Sarkis said. “Just knowing I wouldn’t be able to even walk six weeks because of crutches and then wouldn’t be able to run for four months really sucked.”
Despite not being able to play on the court, Sarkis took advantage of his time away from the court.
“I’ve learned so much being out.” Sarkis said. “This injury has helped me get physically and mentally stronger. Being able to identify what is going on by viewing the game from the sidelines will have an effect on my seasons in the next few years.”
This summer, Sarkis will mainly focus on strengthening his leg and getting it back to 100 percent. He hopes to be fully cleared in the next few weeks and looks forward to the day he can get back to focusing on his basketball skills, rather than rehabbing. With the 2017-2018 season on the horizon in a few months, Sarkis is most looking forward to being back on the court with his teammates, shooting that infamous jump shot once again. Hamilton in particular can’t wait to get his friend back on the court.
“His season ended before it even began due to that injury so we didn’t get to play with each other at all this year.” Hamilton said. “But this year his leadership and his shooting ability will help space the floor. He’s going to be running the show at that point guard position.”
The Wildcats may be excited to get their starting point guard back, but no one is more excited than the man who had no idea what he was in store for walking into workouts on that September day.
“I have been rehabbing four to five times a week for the last seven months” Sarkis said. “But there aren’t many better feelings than knowing I can return to play the sport that I love.”