Though his star has risen in back, Regis' heart still further forward

Despite his comeback, importance to Blast, he doesn't relish role

Soccer

February 14, 2004|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

When you get right down to it, Blast defender Wendell Regis is a paradox.

The veteran indoor soccer player from Trinidad has overcome a knee injury that would have ended the careers of many. He did it with hard work and dedication.

Yet, he said, now that he has overcome that challenge - so well that he was named to the Major Indoor Soccer League All-Star Game - he is "getting by" doing less than he could.

"I know I get paid to do a job," Regis said. "And when I'm on the field during the game, I always give 100 percent. But I could be better. I'm not inspired to work as hard as I could to get better at my position."

The reason?

Regis loves soccer, but he does not love being a defender.

"When he came to our team in Harrisburg, he was a midfielder," said Regis' teammate, David Bascome. "But we had a lot of talented, veteran midfield players, and he had to play defense.

"He'll laugh and tell you we pushed him on to defense. We still tease him, call him the `Backyard Kicks.' It's Caribbean talk that means just going behind the house and kicking the ball around with your friends."

Regis, a quiet, good-natured man, can laugh at the joke, but underneath, there is frustration. Being forced to play defender probably has much to do with his still being in the game, and though he appreciates that, he wants to be a goal-scoring midfielder and ruefully deals with the consequences of knee surgery.

During a February game in the 1999-2000 season, while he was playing for Harrisburg against the Blast, Baltimore's Ronnie Simmons lost his balance and fell into Regis' right knee. Regis suffered complete tears of all three major ligaments - anterior, posterior and medial - and had to have his knee capsule completely rebuilt.

As he sat in the stands one recent day after practice at Du Burns Arena, he rolled up his pants leg and revealed an angry-looking, eight-inch scar on the inside of his knee and several other discolorations where screws have been inserted and removed around his kneecap.

Doctors weren't sure he could come back from the injury, but Regis worked overtime on his rehabilitation, defied the odds and, by the next December, was playing again.

"And until a little earlier this season, I'd been pain-free," he said.

Shortly after the season began, he started to feel a little knee pain, and three weeks ago, he got a cortisone shot.

"The doctor believes there might be a slight deterioration in the area of the screws," he said. "I'm not worried."

After all that, you'd think Regis would make the most of every opportunity. But while his roommate, Allen Eller, said he works hard and even runs on his own, Regis insisted he is not doing all he could.

"Playing in the back is not my dream," said Regis, who leads the team in blocked shots. "It's OK on this team, because there are so many guys who can really play, but I know I can do a whole lot more if I was performing at my optimum. If I had come into the league and been given a decent opportunity to perform, I'd definitely have put in the work.

"I know I have to improve my attitude. I know if a player works hard, he'll be given a bigger role. And I'm working on it. I'm not seeing a quick result, but I'm working on it."

It doesn't help his motivation that his playing time has been shortened this season, first by being moved into a three-man rotation and then when he was taken off the penalty-killing unit when his knee began to hurt.

But despite Regis' self-judged lack of extra effort, coach Tim Wittman has only good things to say about him.

"When he tried out for us, we saw something we liked," Wittman said. "He's a defender who can go forward. But his first job is defense, and Wendell is a good defender; one of the better ones in the league. But sometimes he talks in circles. I see his potential. And already he is more than I expected."

Blast tonight

Matchup: Blast (18-7) vs. San Diego Sockers (10-13)

Site: San Diego Sports Arena

Time: 10

Radio: WCBM (680 AM)

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