Some thought it could potentially affect his draft stock, though ultimately it didn’t. After the Hawks selected Okongwu at No. 6, general manager Travis Schlenk explained what he knows about the injury, which the Hawks’ team of doctors and trainers was able to evaluate about a month ago. Okongwu has a stress fracture in the sesamoid bone, a bone embedded in a tendon located in the ball of the foot, on his left side.
“We were able to get a physical on him, and our doctors looked at the MRI,” Schlenk said of the pre-draft process with Okongwu. “I can’t remember the name of the bone, but there’s a bone underneath the big toe that’s got a small stress fracture in it.”
As soon as the Hawks can get Okongwu to Atlanta and have their doctors re-evaluate him, they’ll check it again to see if it’s been healing well in the time since the physical. As of now, the Hawks aren’t concerned about it affecting Okongwu long-term, but Schlenk did mention it’s hard to predict where Okongwu is in the healing process before taking another look at it.
“The doctors, they weren’t concerned about a long-term injury at all,” Schlenk said. “So hopefully it’s healed from when the MRI was taken probably about four weeks ago, but it’s really hard to say until we get him here and get our doctors to see him. But there was no concern of a long-term injury with it.”
Credit: Atlanta Hawks
According to Foot Health Facts, the sesamoid bones “help the big toe move normally and provide leverage when the big toe pushes off during walking and running,” and act as “a weightbearing surface for the first metatarsal bone (the long bone connected to the big toe), absorbing the weight placed on the ball of the foot when walking, running and jumping.”
Although it’s good news that Hawks doctors don’t expect the injury to linger too long, the nature of this compressed offseason doesn’t give Okongwu too much time to heal up fully. Training camp is rumored to start Dec. 1, and the season begins Dec. 22. However, maybe he’s far enough along in the healing process to where he’ll be able to play from the get-go. But nothing will be known until he’s re-evaluated.