March Madness' Best Kept Secret
Biomechanics expert helps Derick Nelson have career day and send Oakland to NCAA tournament.
March 16, 2010
By Scott MacDonald
Oakland University is making its second appearance in the NCAA Division I tournament in five seasons, thanks to a 36-point performance from senior Derick Nelson in The Summit League Championship game versus IUPUI on March 9 in Sioux Falls, S.D. The Golden Grizzlies posted a 26-8 record and record-setting 17-1 mark in league play.
What most people might not know is that Nelson was in jeopardy of not playing in that game. The 6-foot-5 power forward from Lansing, Mich., tweaked his back during the team's shoot around that morning and went to see biomechanics expert Shawn Sherman, who worked with the team all season long.
"Derick came to see me and told me that he did something to his back," said Sherman, who also works as a consultant for the Chicago Cubs. "In the fifteen minutes that I had with him, it was evident that he would need more than just a quick tune-up."
So they scheduled a session after Nelson's nap. What they both never anticipated is that Nelson would wake up with severe back spasms.
"I could not even walk without tons of pain," said Nelson. "I was worried that I would not even be able to play."
That is where Oakland's secret weapon came in to play. Sherman, a native of Middleburg, Pa., spent 30 minutes with Nelson on his table trying to activate muscles around the spasms to rid Nelson of all the pain he was feeling.
"I believe that cutting-edge sports medicine systems can quickly rid the body of neuromuscular weakness and pain. I make athletes more efficient so that they can be at their best," said Sherman. Nelson was counting on these methods after deciding to come back to Oakland University for this very moment, to win a championship.
Nelson came back to OU after taking a medical redshirt in his senior season because of a broken foot that sidelined him for all but two games in 2008-09. Then he had to make the decision of coming back for a fifth year, or going overseas where he could play professionally and help support his three-year-old daughter, Somiyah.
Before the game, Sherman was very nervous. He had invested a lot of time with these Golden Grizzlies and his practice was on the line. Founder of P2 Training Systems in La Grange, Ill., Sherman text messaged a friend prior to the start of the championship game.
"I believe my fingers didn't uncross until after the game," said Sherman. "Nelson is such an important part of this team and I knew that it would be difficult for Oakland to beat IUPUI without one of its star players. Everything I believe in professionally was on the line."
Not only was Sherman counting on Nelson to be able to play, but Coach Kampe and the players were as well. Sherman spent a season convincing the players that his training systems can help them peak at the end of the season, and this was the time for that to happen.
With the Golden Grizzlies trailing 10-3 almost seven minutes into the game, Nelson started to take over the game. The same player that could not even bend over four hours before the game, ended up scoring 20 of the Grizzlies' 35 points in the opening half, and gave Oakland an eight-point lead at the half, 35-27. "We did not even know if Derick was going to be able to play and then Shawn worked on him and all of a sudden, he played the game of his life," said Director of Sports Medicine Tom Ford.
Nelson followed that up with another 16 points in the second half, finishing with a career-high 36 and earned tournament most valuable player honors. It was a reality that still seems surreal for Shawn.
"Overall, that was one of the best nights of my life," said Sherman. "Just to have the opportunity to help a player of that stature in that big of a moment, and then to have first row seats to watch it all unfold was unbelievable. Having so many people come up to me and show their appreciation and recognize the role that I played in that championship game - wow, just an amazing experience!"
Sherman's expertise could be the reason Oakland is dancing in March once again. And after a phone call this past Monday, the team's secret weapon will once again be on site. Oakland fans, along with the players and Nelson, hope this time he has another surprise that will assist the Grizzlies as they try and pull off a big upset on Friday against No. 3 seed Pittsburgh.