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Article updated: 8/8/2012 10:02 PM
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Torn ACL spoils Knar's senior season
 

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Torn ACL spoils Knar's senior season
  • Mundelein's Robert Knar, here driving to hoop against Deerfield in sectional play at Barrington, has suffered a torn left ACL and is facing surgery. He'll likely miss most of his senior high school season.

    Purchase Photo | Mundelein's Robert Knar, here driving to hoop against Deerfield in sectional play at Barrington, has suffered a torn left ACL and is facing surgery. He'll likely miss most of his senior high school season. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 

Two hours south of Rolla, Mo., nine hours from home, Dick Knar sits on the deck at his family's time share in Arkansas, cellphone in hand, honoring a reporter's request to call him.

A quiet lake, just a half-court shot away, provides a scenic backdrop on a lazy morning for Mundelein's boys basketball coach.

Story Continues Below

Robert Knar, the coach's sharpshooting son, is still sleeping.

The silence, in truth, began last week, when the Knars learned the baby of their family suffered a torn left ACL while playing in an AAU tournament in Orlando, Fla.

"The last day of nationals," Dick Knar said of Robert's injury, which happened July 28 when Robert split a pair of defenders in the lane, only to have his knee crash with the knee of a help-side defender.

The hoops-playing family isn't used to being drowned out by singing birds on lake.

"I put on my Facebook (page) that it's the first family vacation in I don't know how many years where there's not a basketball here," Dick Knar said. "We haven't watched a basketball game."

Sadly for Team Knar and all Mundelein basketball fans, Robert won't play a basketball game for a long time. The news is a blow to all of Lake County basketball, because few players are more fun to watch with a basketball in his hands than the 6-foot-1 incoming senior guard who verbally committed to the University of Northern Iowa in late April.

The Knars rented a pontoon boat Tuesday and were maybe going to go swim in a natural spring Wednesday. They prefer to make splashes on the basketball court.

"I can't remember the last time we actually just chilled together," Robert said. "I actually don't know what to do with myself, because usually basketball is what we always do on the trips. But it's been really fun."

Leave it to Robert, who's more mature than most adults, to spin as deftly as he can spin a basketball on his index finger.

He's more "mad than sad" about his injury, his dad said. Mundelein just went from a team with realistic aspirations of advancing downstate to a team that might not win a regional. But don't tell that to Robert.

Don't tell him to forget about breaking Kyle Kessel's school record for career points.

Don't cry for him, because he won't.

"He's never, ever been a Why Me," Dick Knar said of Robert, whose 1,897 points at Mundelein trail only Kessel's 1,920. "He's never been like, 'Why did this happen to me?' He just got mad. He talked to his teammates and said, 'We're going to do this anyway. I'm going to be there. I just won't be on the court.' He asked me, 'When I can start jogging, can I at least do layup lines with the guys?' That's the stuff he's thinking about."

A varsity starter since he stepped on the court as a freshman, Knar averaged 22.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 2.4 steals last season for a 26-8 Mustangs squad that lost to Warren in the sectional finals. The Mustangs are still going to be good in 2012-13, considering they graduated only two players and still have long-and-tall Sean O'Brien, who's had nearly a dozen scholarship offers, promising guard Nate Williams and lots of other talent.

"Our goals are not changing," Dick Knar said. "We're just going to have to do it different way. We were lucky enough to have a kid who did a lot of stuff for us. Now we're going to have to have other people do it for him."

Robert Knar is scheduled to see his rehab specialist Saturday. If the flexibility in his knee is good enough, Dick Knar said, surgery to repair the ACL might take place next Friday.

In the meantime, the Knars -- Dick, wife Theresa and twins Toni and Dickie -- are encouraging Robert to stay positive. He's also received support from many friends, including former Mustangs hoops star and current Wisconsin Badger Ben Brust and fireballer Ryan Borucki, who since graduating from Mundelein in May was drafted and signed by the Toronto Blue Jays.

Robert's fate mirrors that of his sister Toni, who tore her ACL prior to her senior season in 2009.

She's now entering her junior year at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla. She's playing basketball, showing no ill effects from her repaired knee and playing quality minutes for Missouri S & T's Miners.

"She's been great," Robert said. "She's been telling me what to expect and what to do, and to make sure that I do it because that's what's going to get me back on the court as soon as possible."

As Robert and his dad chilled at an Arkansas beach this week, they game-planned. They talked about what Robert can do while mending to make himself a better basketball player when he starts playing competitively again.

Said Dad to Son: "During the season you don't get to shoot as much as you normally would, or ball-handle, or lift. You shot 46 percent from (3-point range) last year. Let's be over 50 percent. You shot only 78 percent from the free-throw line last year. Let's shoot for 90 (percent). I think you'll see from the sidelines that there are smart things as a basketball player that you can do and learn from."

A good coach always strategizes, always seeks ways to motivate.

A good dad always pains when his child pains.

Dick Knar knows all the hard work Robert has put in, knows how his little boy has talked about going downstate his senior year since he was in the fifth grade, knows how he has been relentless in trying to prove to doubters that he's good enough and athletic enough to play Division I basketball.

Dick Knar remembers the 5:45 a.m. wake-up calls.

"All of a sudden, Rob taps me on the shoulder," Dick Knar said. "He's like, 'Come on, Dad. I was like 6 for 9 from the free-throw line. I need to go to the gym and shoot.' We'd get up and go (to the school) and at 6 o'clock in the morning we're in the gym shooting."

Once the surgery is done, Robert is looking at a recovery period of 6-8 months. Which pretty much wipes out his senior year.

"He said, 'Dad, I'd love to walk out in the starting lineup on senior night,' " Mundelein's coach said. "I'm like, 'Well, it's a goal to have, but just remember this: You will do exactly what the doctors tell you to do.' "

The Knars know better than to rush Robert back. After all, Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson still wants his prized recruit and is going to honor the scholarship he offered.

"Coach Jacobson was great," Dick Knar said. "He called right away. He said, 'Dick, I'm going to say this one time and I'm going to tell Robert one time, and I'm never going to discuss it again: He's a Panther, and he will always be a Panther."

For now, Robert Knar is still a Mundelein Mustang.

He's made that loud and clear.

jaguilar@dailyherald.com

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