In April of 2004, Ronald Steele had everything going for him: a recent high school graduate enrolling in Alabama in the fall with a full athletic scholarship, two Alabama Mr. Basketball Awards, one 6A Alabama State Championship, one 6A State Player of the Year and a 6A State Finals MVP all under his belt.
By 2006, Steele's sophomore season, he was the starting point guard of a very capable Crimson Tide team. When Chuck Davis (the Tide's leading scorer) went down, it was Steele who single-handedly brought the Tide back from the basement. Steele dazzled opponents, announcers and fans by averaging 14.3 ppg and 4.6 assists a game on his way to a First-Team All-SEC and an Honorable Mention All-American campaign.
He turned down lucrative NBA offers and the almost-certain fact that he would be a first round Selection to return for his Jr. Season. Then things fell apart.
First an ankle injury.
Then another ankle injury.
Then tendinitus in his knee.
Steele underwent multiple MRI's throughout the season, but none could come up with the true source of his pain. Coaches knew he was going through excruciating pain, the fans could see it on his face, and Steele could feel it with every wincing step. They just couldn't find out what was wrong.
Steele regularly sat out practices just so the swelling would go down enough for him to be able to walk on game days.
Still, Steele played. He took the Tide on his shoulders, ailing knees and consistently aggravated ankles.
Things didn't stop here.
Then came the offseason. which brought about arthroscopic knee surgery to repair cartilage defects is BOTH of Steele's knees. While he expected to play in 2007-2008, Steele found himself, yet another time in his life, unable to walk.
He had gone from a preseason All-American candidate, to a bed ridden college senior with the knees of an AARP member.
Dana O'Neill from ESPN describes the situation best:
"The kid who taught himself to be a great ball handler by dribbling on roller skates couldn't even stand up."
Steele found himself confined to a hospital bed for weeks without playing, without shooting, without the game he loves. Steele related his situation by stating,
"There were days, sitting in that hospital bed that I didn't know if I'd get the opportunity to play again."
To catch you up to speed, its now fifteen months later... and Steele finds himself entering his final college basketball season with two new legs and a heart as passionate as ever.
The journey has been rough, and many skeptics have used Steele as an example of why freshman and sophomores should jump ship to the NBA.
Steele refuses to view his situation with regrets. He has stated many times how proud he is to graduate from Alabama, with his teammates.
Steele has seen what its like to have life without basketball, and he plans on using this season to reassure than he will never go without basketball again.
Whether you are an Alabama fan, a Florida fan, a Big East fan, a European basketball fan or even not a fan at all, you should appreciate Steele's passion and his desire to do what he loves in life.
Ronald Steele has given everything to the game of basketball, and as fans of basketball he has given his heart and soul to us.
Well Ronald, we are behind you every step of the way.