Brave Michael's battle back to the court

IT was an injury which could have cost him his dreams - and left him paralysed.

Pg 4/5 spread

By GRANT SHERLOCK,

chief reporter

grant.sherlock@eveningstar.co.uk>

IT was an injury which could have cost him his dreams - and left him paralysed.

But Ipswich basketball sensation Michael Holbrook is today just one day away from making his much anticipated return to the basketball court, only eight months since he broke his neck in an horrific on-court clash.

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The inspirational 17-year-old has stunned his Ipswich Tomcats team mates, coach and family in battling back to full fitness so quickly and tomorrow's Under-18 National League game in Cambridge will mark an emotional high-point for the youngster.

Michael, a 6ft 8in 15-stone rising star, has worked tirelessly to regain his strength and has returned stronger than ever. He is also two inches taller and carrying more muscle than before the accident.

His coach Nick Drane said: “Michael is an extremely dedicated and hardworking young man. He's been so determined and so focussed.

“As soon as his neck brace came off he said 'right Coach, what can I do?'.

“If it happened to a lesser character it could have ended his career.

“Having Michael back so soon is a psychological and emotional boost which as a coach you can't measure.”

Mr Drane, who guided his team to the National League play-offs and eventually promotion last season, said: “Michael was just desperate to play. The doctors' all-clear isn't officially until Monday, but 24 hours is not going to make much difference.

“He started training with the ball five months ago and has been running for four months, so he is ready to start playing.”

Michael, a former Kesgrave High School pupil who is now based at top east London basketball academy Barking Abbey, broke his neck in a freak fall in February when he dived to retrieve a ball while playing for Holbrook eagles.

He underwent a five-hour operation to insert a titanium plate in the front of his neck, another to put two rods in the back of his neck, held in place with six screws, and also had a bone graft taken from his hip.

It has been a long road back for the determined teen and his mum Carol, 45, of Bucklesham Road, said: “The accident has made him more determined. When he broke his neck it made him realise just how big he wanted to become.

“I'm pleased for him. I will have my phone on and they are videoing the game for me.

“He just loves the sport, all he wants to do is play basketball.

“I just want him to do the best he can.”

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