Former UVM recruit continues his road to recovery
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Feb. 1, 2015 changed the life of one Catamount men’s basketball player forever.
Before then, first-year Josh Speidel, a senior at the time attending high school in Columbus, Indiana, was preparing for his college career at UVM.
The power forward was a standout basketball player that head coach John Becker described as “the best player I’ve ever recruited,” according to The Republic.
That night, Speidel suffered a serious brain injury in a car crash on US-31 in Bartholomew County, Indiana, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Today, Speidel is taking classes at UVM while continuing to rehab from his injury.
The road back, however, hasn’t been easy.
“I had to relearn how to do almost everything,” Speidel said. “It’s been a nonstop process.”
“I started with physical, occupational, speech and vision therapy sessions daily while in the hospital,” he said.
“Once I went home after four months, I started outpatient therapies three days a week and three days a week at-home therapies. As I began to improve, the therapies were reduced.”
Speidel came to UVM in June to take two summer courses, which he says helped his transition from being at home to being at college.
This fall he has transitioned to full-time classes, while working with physical and occupational therapists at the medical center to continue his rehabilitation.
Speidel is currently working on reconnecting the left side of his body to his brain.
“My brain didn’t recognize the left side of my body, so I spend lots of time doing exercises to build those reconnections,” Speidel said. “It’s a slow process, but it is getting better every day.”
The injury has forced him to change his approach, not just to basketball, but to schoolwork.
“In high school, I didn’t have to study or work very hard,” he said. “Now, I’m dealing with short-term memory issues, so I’ve had to learn different strategies for completing assignments and learning material.”
According to longtime friend and junior UVM guard Ernie Duncan, the team sees Speidel’s progress on a daily basis.
“We see his rehab process every day,” Duncan said.
“He’s in the weight room doing exercises and we see him on the court doing his work.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is Speidel’s personality. “Before his crash, he had this outgoing, always-laughing-type of personality,” Duncan said. “Today, he still has that personality. He’s always trying to make jokes and he tends to always have a smile on his face.”
Despite the injury, Speidel’s love of the game is still as strong as ever, and it helps drive him and his teammates.
“I believe that as horrible as this car wreck was, it has shown me how much I love the game of basketball,” Speidel said.
“For me, personally, he is motivation,” Duncan said.
“I know how much he wants to be out there, and I know he would do anything to be out there playing with us.”
Speidel is always there during practice, whether it be as a spectator, mentor or participant.
“He has given me advice in practice when I did something wrong,” Duncan said.
“[And] he’s working on his own game, so he may be shooting on the side or working on his ball-handling.”
The NCAA granted UVM a waiver to allow Speidel to participate with the team and sit on the bench during games without using up a year of his eligibility, according to UVM athletics.
“He completes our team,” Duncan said.
“He’s always there to give me multiple laughs a day, whether that is during practice or after.”
His love of the game of basketball drives his rehab process every day, and his ultimate goal is to join his teammates on the court for a competitive NCAA game.
“My biggest goal is to one day step on the court and play for the Catamounts,” Speidel said. “Until that time, I’ll support my team in any way I can.”