Bell to undergo season-ending spinal surgery, says playing again a 'possibility'

ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech senior guard and team captain D'Andre Bell will have season-ending surgery to correct a spinal condition, but he said Wednesday he still hopes to complete his college career in the 2009-10 season.

Bell, who started 22 games last season, was diagnosed with a congenital condition known as spinal stenosis.

Bell felt numbness in his extremities after he hit his head on a teammate's leg while diving for a ball during a workout on Oct. 10.

He was examined Tuesday by Dr. John Heller, a specialist at Emory Orthopedic and Spine Center, and was told he would not be able to play this season.

"Actually I walked into the doctor's office with high hopes, but once I received the news I was pretty much stunned," Bell told The Associated Press.

"Currently I still do not know how really to react to it. I'm just thankful and truly blessed we were able to figure out what was wrong and now we're able to take the proper measures."

The stenosis, a narrowing and compression of the spinal cord, is located in the cervical portion of Bell's spine.

Bell said he was told he has a chance to play next season.

"The doctor said that could happen," Bell said.

"I am going to be taking my redshirt year. As far as me playing after the surgery, it's up in the air. It's a possibility. We'll have to see how I feel after all the rehab and everything."

Bell said he'll be able to begin his rehab program six to eight weeks after the surgery.

The 6-foot-6 Bell was recently touted by Hewitt as one of the team's leaders.

Bell, who averaged 6.6 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game last season, is regarded as the team's top defensive player.

"We're very disappointed for D'Andre," said coach Paul Hewitt. "At the same time, however, he was fortunate to have caught this before something catastrophic happened on the court."

Bell said he plans to have the surgery during the winter break in December.

"I don't want this to affect my graduation status," he said. "I graduate in May."

Team orthopedist Dr. John Xerogeanes said the surgery is "necessary for his quality of life, whether he plays basketball again or not."