It was his third game of the day during summer ball in June.
A pop. And then the realization hit.
Saint Patrick basketball star Ben Swolsky was going to miss his senior season with a knee injury.
But not Ben.
The forward with over 1,200 points scored rehabbed intensely, making sure he wouldn’t miss his senior year. What is normally an eight to 12 month recovery time was a remarkable five after surgery for Swolsky.
He’d return to the floor January 17 against Newport Central Catholic, defying the odds. Swolsky battled through injuries the last two seasons and the hard work both off the court with rehab and on it with his game paid off on Thursday when he signed his letter of intent with Mount St. Joseph University to continue his playing career.
“It’s a big relief,” Swolsky said of inking his name on the dotted line. “I was really worried after my ACL tear in June that I wouldn’t play college ball. Mount St. Joe and a bunch of other schools were there with me through the process, but I felt this was the best connection for me. So finally making it official is just a big relief and I’m ready to get started.”
Injuries aren’t the only thing Swolsky has had to overcome, having this past season limited with the knee injury and his junior season minimized due to a wrist injury. The Saints had to deal with three head coaches in the last three seasons, but it didn’t stop Swolsky’s outlook.
“I loved all three coaches and still do. I’m still really close with them. I was able to experience different types of coaching and different styles and all kinds of defenses,” Swolsky said. “I really think I benefited from it because I learned a lot more.”
First Swolsky and the Saints were under Matt Taylor his eighth through 10th grade year. Swolsky’s game started to take off his sophomore season as he led the team in scoring with 15.4 points and pulled down 7.3 rebounds a game.
After Taylor, was John Kirkpatrick his junior year, where then assistant Aaron Rigdon really started to notice a change in his game.
“I really saw his maturity from his sophomore to his junior year,” Rigdon said.
Swolsky would average 20.8 points and 9.2 rebounds, leading the team in both categories, despite missing 12 games due to a broken wrist.
Then entered Rigdon for his senior year. Despite not being able to participate in team workouts and practice, Rigdon praised Swolsky’s leadership during those times.
“Three years and three different coaches is tough on anybody,” Rigdon said, who was an assistant on staff Swolsky’s sophomore and junior season. “He was here before so he helped me. When he was off the court with his injury he was a leader. He always encouraged the guys and helped the younger guys out.”
After intense rehab sessions of three to four days a week, Swolsky returned to the floor in mid-January and made his impact known right away, scoring 12 points in the New Cath game.
“Rehab was a long process. I had a great physical therapist who really pushed me. They originally told me about 8-12 months for recovery from this normally, but I was really determined to play my senior year. I went 3-4 days for about five months and ended up cutting the recovery time to that,” Swolsky said.
He’d produce nicely in 12 games for the Saints this past season, averaging 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, despite being limited.
“Getting back out there, I knew I wasn’t where I was going to be, probably about 80 percent. I was scared at first, but it just felt good to be back and play with my guys and be out there on the court one last time for them to represent my school and my community,” Swolsky said.
When it was all said and done, Swolsky finished with 1,220 points, good for 16th all-time on the St. Patrick scoring list. He also pulled down over 600 rebounds. Without the 32 games missed the past two seasons, one could only wonder how much more damage he would have done to the scoring list.
“He would have passed me,” Rigdon said, who ranks fourth on the scoring list with 1,518 points.
Swolsky takes it in stride though imagining the “what-ifs”,
“A lot of ups and downs with injuries and some tough losses. I just went out there every time knowing what I was representing on my jersey, the St. Patrick community, which has been nothing but supportive and loving to me. I’m just going to continue to work hard and do what I was taught here at the next level and represent us even better,” Swolsky said.
The senior plans to major in biomedical sciences and getting into medical school afterwards. Getting a doctorate is another goal of his.
He chose to be a Lion because he liked the fit there and the coaches support throughout the process.
“They were actually my first visit and I remember telling my mom, ‘I haven’t gone to these other places yet but I think this is the place for me.’ They have a winning tradition which is something I really want to be a part of. Coaches were always supportive, they’d come to games and even told me they’d come to games even if I wasn’t playing due to injury. They were really supportive and feel like this is where I’m supposed to be at,” Swolsky said.
He’ll continue working on his strength with his knee and has an offseason workout plan the Mount St. Joe coaches sent to him. He also has a pretty good sidekick to workout with either in the front yard or during conditioning, his brother Jake Swolsky, a sophomore at St. Patrick.
“If Jake keeps working, he’ll be better than I am. He’s come a long way, he’s grown a lot and will be something special if he sticks with it,” Swolsky said. “I’m really excited to see what his future is, you never know, maybe I’ll have a future teammate.”