Freeport’s Isiah Bauman overcoming knee injury to play basketball at Point Park

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Friday, April 24, 2020 | 5:52 PM


Playing college football always was the goal for Freeport senior Isiah Bauman.

After a junior season in which he was second on the Yellowjackets in tackles (73) and had two interceptions and seven deflected passes, his goal seemed like it was within reach.

He said he was talking to a few college coaches, but they wanted to wait to see his senior tape before making an offer. To improve his chances of achieving his dream, Bauman skipped his junior season of basketball so he could spend more time in the weight room to prepare for his final football season.

His senior season came and went in the blink of an eye. During Freeport’s first game, a 35-27 loss to Derry on Aug. 30, Bauman caught seven passes for 85 yards and a touchdown before going down with a season-ending left knee injury.

“I caught a bubble screen, and I was running up the sideline,” Bauman said. “I went to cut back across the field, and my knee just gave out. I knew it right away.”

At first, Bauman said he thought he might be able to return, so he put off surgery. He rehabbed and tried to gain enough strength in his leg to run and cut. After a few weeks, he got to the point where he could run.

But after getting advice from his doctor and his parents, he opted for surgery Oct. 8.

Bauman’s hopes of playing college athletics weren’t finished, though.

Despite not playing organized basketball since his sophomore year, Bauman signed his national letter of intent to play at Point Park about three months after his surgery.

“We always thought he was going to be a football player,” Point Park coach Joe Lewandowski said. “I knew he loved basketball, but he was getting a lot of interest in football. So we tried to stay in touch and stay after him. When he found out that he was available, we tried to get on him as soon as possible because we think he’s a steal.”

The longtime basketball coach had seen enough during Bauman’s freshman and sophomore seasons. Lewandowski knew what he was getting in Bauman as an athlete and a person, and he wasn’t deterred from bringing him in.

“One of the things you can’t teach are certain intangibles like toughness, having a winning mentality or being a team player.” Lewandowski said. “Those are things you win with. He’s tough. He wins, and he competes. He was always a really skilled kid. So we know that’s going to come back.”

Bauman said deciding to play basketball rather than football in college was difficult. In the end, he said he was glad to land somewhere he felt comfortable.

“I missed playing. I honestly did, and I’ve talked with coach Lewandowski before so I just felt good going with someone I trust,” Bauman said. “It just made it a lot easier, especially with deciding to not play football. It felt like a good fit in general.”

With his college decision made, Bauman got back to work. He was going to physical therapy three to four times a week and starting to see improvement in his strength and mobility. Around the beginning of the quarantine, he received good news.

“I was feeling pretty good during physical therapy,” Bauman said. “I was running, and we were starting to do some cutting. Then I couldn’t go in (to the office) because of everything going on. So I talked to my doctor, and he said I was cleared for noncontact stuff.”

Since then, he has been at home lifting weights, getting back into basketball shape by working out on a hoop at a neighbor’s house. Last week, five and a half months after his surgery, he got a good sign when he dunked for the first time since his injury.

“I was feeling really fresh because I hadn’t been able to run around of anything recently,” Bauman said. “I was just messing around with my dad, so I just tried it and I got it (the dunk). It was honestly a surreal feeling to be able to do that.”

His future coach isn’t worried too much about his return either.

“We know he’s coming back from that ACL injury, but, I mean, his family is basketball,” Lewandowski said. “They love basketball. He loves basketball. When you get an opportunity to get a kid like that in your program, you try to get him right away.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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