Healthy, improved Dickerson returns for WKU

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers guard Caden Dickerson (10) and Western Kentucky Hilltoppers guard Kevin Kaspar (1) celebrate after Western Kentucky Hilltoppers first exhibition game of the season against Campbellsville University at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky. on Monday October 29, 2012. WKU won 84-46.

Lucas Aulbach

Caden Dickerson is back, and he might be better than ever.

Dickerson, a redshirt junior, played significant time at the guard position for the Toppers in his first two seasons at WKU. As a sophomore, he appeared in every game and averaged six points and an assist.

An injured left shoulder hampered him coming in to last season, though — he had season-ending surgery four games into the season and attained a medical redshirt, giving him back a year of eligibility.

A year of recovery from a serious injury can take a lot out of an athlete, but Dickerson proved he hadn’t lost a step when he scored nine points against Campbellsville on Monday in WKU’s first exhibition game of the season.

Senior guard Jamal Crook said Dickerson has looked like a stronger scorer since he’s returned to playing form. Crook would know — he and Dickerson have both been around the Topper program since 2009.

“His main thing is knocking down shots,” Crook said. “He’s looking good, his shot is looking better than I’ve ever seen it and once we get into the games, you all will see that. I’m glad to have him back.”

The crowd at Diddle Arena sounded glad to have the guard back as well. He entered the game and scored his first points to loud applause.

He earned one of his biggest ovations on a play he didn’t even score on. At one point midway through the first half, he went flying into some fold-up chairs on the sideline as he tried to save a ball from going out of bounds.

The crowd roared when he stood up and shook off the fall.

Crook said he joked about the instance with his teammate after the game.

“I was kind of teasing him a little bit about going and diving into the stands, hitting the chairs,” he said. “I was glad to see him back and I felt good having him out there. I know he felt good being out there.”

That save was far from his only physical moment of the game. Dickerson was making plays on offense and defense, even taking several charges throughout the night.

Crook said that’s the kind of effort you can expect out of him.

“Caden does all the little things that you wouldn’t expect — that’s Caden,” Crook said. “He’s been doing it since freshman year, since I’ve known him. We came in together and that’s Caden. He does stuff like that, he’s a tough kid.”

Dickerson, who said he hasn’t been 100 percent healthy since his freshman season, credits his recovery to his athletic rehabilitation program with WKU physical therapist Cindy Hudson.

“I feel great,” he said. “I worked with Cindy Hudson, she got me stronger than I’ve ever been, and I’m ready to go.”

WKU appears deep at the guard position this season, with senior Jamal Crook, sophomore T.J. Price and Dickerson at the forefront of an undecided battle for spots on the starting roster. Price and Crook started against Campbellsville, along with junior guard Brandon Harris.

Coach Ray Harper, who has said he’s still playing with rotations to determine who his starters will be, admitted he hasn’t decided on what Dickerson’s proper role in the WKU lineup is.

“I don’t know how I can continue to not start Caden Dickerson,” Harper said after the Campbellsville exhibition. “The reason I’m not starting him right now is I think he brings so much to us off the bench. That is the only reason. He’s been terrific all summer.”