KANSAS CITY, Mo. — BYU freshman Eric Mika called it “the most painful thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Mika was describing the play on which he suffered a right eye abrasion in the final minutes of last week’s loss to Iowa State when he was jabbed in the eye by DeAndre Kane.
It wasn’t until he underwent a scan on his eye that Mika was cleared to start playing again. Mika returned to the floor Monday and helped BYU defeat Texas, 86-82, at Sprint Center.
And he did it in style, wearing protective goggles that he and his mom purchased at a sporting goods store — in the racquetball section.
“Eric loves his new look with the goggles,” said Cougar guard Tyler Haws.
Mika said it didn’t take much of an adjustment to play with the eyewear. “They don’t fog up too easily,” he explained.
He’s just not sure how long he will sport the goggles.
“I’ll wear them (Tuesday) because I’m scared to get hit in the face again,” he said after scoring 15 points and pulling down seven rebounds against the Longhorns. “Then we’ll see from there. I might wear them for a while.”
In the hours after sustaining the injury, Mika said his eye “killed. All night, there was tons of pressure around my right eye. When I was on the ground (right after the play), I thought I was blind because I tried opening my eye and I couldn’t see anything out of it for about a minute until they pushed blood into it. That was pretty scary.”
Coach Dave Rose knows just how scary it was.
“We’re fortunate that he’s able to play after that injury, because it could have been a lot worse,” Rose said. “Any time you have an eye injury, you worry about being able to come back. These games are so important for Eric.
"Eric continues to get better every minute he’s on the floor. He’s improving and it’s developing a lot of confidence in our team and the rest of our players. I believe we’re really fortunate to play, not only for the outcome of the game, but for the future of our team. He’s going to be a really big part of this.”
The eye scan performed on Mika revealed that nothing was fractured, and there was no bleeding.
“If either of those things had happened, I would have been out at least two weeks,” Mika said.
Instead, he battled tough with Texas’ big men.
“Eric’s a warrior inside,” Haws said. “He’s another freshman, like Frank (Bartley), that’s not intimidated by anyone. Even if he gets knocked down, or gouged in the eye, he’s just going to keep coming back at you.”
BYU assistant coach Mark Pope said that Iowa State’s Kane had considered calling Mika, but hasn’t.
“I didn’t want to deal with it,” Mika said. “If (Kane) wants to call me later on, we’ll go from there. I’m not rushing to get a call. I don’t think (the foul) was on purpose.”
Mika brought an extra pair of goggles on the road trip, just in case.
“I was trying to get (freshman forward) Luke (Worthington) to wear them, too,” guard Matt Carlino joked. “I was like, ‘If you’re his friend, you’ll wear those glasses.' He wouldn’t wear them.”
Bartley, another freshman, scored 11 points and collected four rebounds off the bench against Texas. He knocked down all three of his 3-point attempts.
Haws is impressed with Bartley’s performance this season.
“We know Frank is really talented. It’s a little bit of a surprise,” he said. “He’s a great player and he’s not afraid of anyone. When he comes into the game, he’s looking to be aggressive. He was telling our guys at halftime, ‘We need to be tougher.’ That coming from a freshman is pretty cool.”
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