COLUMBUS – Nov. 9, 2009.
It is the day David Lighty has had circled on every calender he owns for quite some time now.
It is the day that marks the season opener for Thad Matta and the Ohio State basketball team, as they take on coach Isiah Thomas and Florida International University in the Coaches vs. Cancer event.
But for Lighty, it is the day he makes his return to the game of basketball after nearly 11 months away from game action.
"It's five months to the first game," said a beaming Lighty Monday. "I'm just ready to get back on the court in live action. That's what I'm getting ready for."
This month will be the sixth since Lighty went down with what turned out to be a season-ending foot injury last Dec. 17. It was a strange incident in a game where the Cleveland native had scored a season-high 21 points in an 81-68 victory over Jacksonville.
It wasn't until much later that night and on into the next morning that Lighty would have any idea as to the severity of his injury. Ultimately it would end his junior season after just seven games, but the road to recovery has finally reached a point where Lighty feels like his old self again.
"I'm good," said Lighty, who averaged 9.7 points and 5.7 rebounds prior to his injury last season. "I'm back to 100 percent now."
Originally diagnosed as a 6-12 week injury, Lighty tried his best to get back in time for the Buckeyes' post-season run but he was still experiencing too much soreness in his foot to make a dramatic late-season return.
"Once they gave me the green light to go, I pretty much did as much as I could until it would get sore. But that just comes with having surgery," Lighty said. "I don't have any soreness any more. It probably stopped in the middle of April when we were doing those drills."
Ohio State's season ultimately came to an end on March 20 in a double-overtime loss to Siena in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but it would still be a few weeks until Lighty was back at full strength.
"It was probably the end of March or first part of April when I was able to play without the coaches or (trainer) Vinnie (O'Brien) saying something to me and just letting me go out and do what I had to do on the court," Lighty said. "I wish it had been sooner, but there's nothing I could do about that."
After helping the Buckeyes to an NCAA Championship game berth and a post-season NIT title in his first two seasons in Columbus, Lighty was named a captain prior to last season. So it's no wonder Lighty wanted desperately to be on the floor helping his teammates as they battled in the Big Ten Tournament and on into the NCAA Tournament this past March.
"There were moments like that in the crucial parts of the game, coming down to the end with four minutes left," Lighty said. "I would be like, 'Man, I could be in there helping the team.' Evan (Turner) calls me Mr. Optimistic. I just look for the better of things."
The obvious silver lining on Lighty's injury was his ability to take a medical redshirt for last season, which means the 6-5 swingman will now have two more seasons in Columbus. This could give Lighty a chance to be a three-time captain for the Buckeyes, and it will give him the opportunity to play alongside another group of heralded recruits when Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas and the other members of Ohio State's class of 2010 arrive next season.