Connor Rubattino was due for some good news. He thinks he got it Wednesday, when noted knee specialist Dr. William Sterett told Rubattino he has a chance to play basketball for Cardinal Newman this season.
It’s a ray of sunshine for the reigning All-Empire Large School Basketball Player of the Year, who shredded his left knee — torn medial collateral ligament, dislocated kneecap, torn patellar retinaculum (a tendon that holds the kneecap in place) — playing football against Maria Carrillo on Oct. 2.
“It’s very good news,” Rubattino said Friday. “I was just hoping I don’t have to miss basketball.”
That outcome was in doubt until the Newman senior heard from Dr. Sterett, who graduated from Cardinal Newman in 1978 and now practices in Vail, Colo., and who has fixed knees belonging to Joe Montana and Lindsey Vonn, among others. Sterett, after reviewing Rubattino’s file, confirmed that the teen will eventually need surgery to have his patella raised. But he told Rubattino that he can postpone that operation for now and undergo a less-invasive procedure to clean out cartilage.
Rubattino is opting for the latter. He will have that surgery as soon as next week, and believes he can be on the basketball court by the end of December.
Cardinals hoops coach Tom Bonfigli isn’t putting a timetable on it.
“The primary issue is his health, and I certainly don’t want the kid playing in pain,” Bonfigli said. “So we’ll wait till they do whatever they have to do, and he’s rehabilitated and can go 100 percent and not in pain, then I’d consider playing him. But it’s not gonna be for a while.”
Rubattino is known primarily for his basketball prowess, but he has played football all four years at Cardinal Newman. This year, he decided not to. But after the Cardinals had played two games, Rubattino changed his mind. He talked to football coach Paul Cronin and joined the team that week.
Rubattino doesn’t regret the decision. In fact, just the opposite.
“I think I would have regretted it if I hadn’t played,” he said.
Playing wide receiver against Carrillo, Rubattino was blocking downfield when a teammate got tackled into his knee. He heard a pop and was carried from the field, and three days later an MRI revealed the damage.
It is not Rubattino’s first bout of trouble with the knee. The cartilage is damaged from a football injury he suffered playing quarterback as a freshman, and it has been a source of chronic pain when he’s playing sports. Rubattino does not anticipate the soreness increasing after this issue, though, and insisted he is at no greater risk of re-injury.
Football season hasn’t been good to Bonfigli’s team. He has eight prospective basketball players strapping on helmets, and another of them, junior Cody Baker, broke his collarbone in two places against Clayton Valley.
“Cody’s one of our best players,” Bonfigli said. “He’s our seventh or eighth man, shoots really well.”
Still, Bonfigli said, he understands that Cardinal Newman has multi-sport athletes, and he has never discouraged any of his kids from playing football. In fact, with an enrollment of just more than 600 students, he knows it isn’t realistic to ask kids to focus on just one sport at the private school.