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Gassman back on the hardwood

Bridgewater-Emery's Cole Gassman (1) drives to the basket against Gregory's Max Klundt on Saturday at the Corn Palace. (Ryan Deal / Republic)

On Saturday, Cole Gassman checked in with butterflies in his stomach and a pack of Huskies cheering him on.

One-hundred and forty-eight days after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee, the Bridgewater-Emery senior point guard made his basketball season debut at the Corn Palace.

"It took a lot of hard work and everyone was behind my back," Gassman said. "I have to thank everyone that just kept me going."

Gassman was the first player off the bench in the Huskies' game against Gregory. He checked in midway through the first quarter and the strong contingent of blue and silver roared in applause.

"A lot of butterflies," Gassman said about making his debut. "I was so nervous."

You wouldn't know it by watching him play. Less than a minute into the game, Gassman recorded a steal and converted a contested layup for his first points of the season. He finished with eight points (two 3-pointers), one rebound, one assist and one steal. Class B No. 1 Bridgewater-Emery defeated the Gorillas, 63-40.

"I am glad I can just be back and help my teammates in whatever they need help with," Gassman said. "So we can have our dream of going to state again."

Gassman, an all-state running back, sustained the ACL injury on Sept. 8 during a football game in Madison. He attacked his rehab and made a goal of joining the Huskies on the hardwood by February.

"He's a real athletic kid to begin with and then his drive to come back and his drive through his rehab has been remarkable," Bridgewater-Emery coach Scott Schultz said. "His work ethic on the court spilled over to the training room. There's never a doubt in our mind that physically he would be back sometime."

Gassman said he was praised by doctors for his speedy recovery.

"They said it was a quick recovery and said they were really impressed with how big my muscles were in my leg and said I have been really improving really fast," Gassman said.

Gassman brings another experienced guard to the Huskies, who also feature all-state guards Sawyer Schultz and Jamin Arend.

"He moved very well and he's still continuing to get stronger," coach Schultz said. "He will continue with this therapy. We were real happy with him. I don't where I would rate him as far as a percentage, but I think he looks like he's definitely back to the form he had last year."

The Huskies play Class B No. 4 White River this Saturday at the Dakota Wesleyan University Classic at the Corn Palace. The game starts at 8:30 p.m. and is the finale of the eight-game event.