- Associated Press - Saturday, August 2, 2014

CLARKSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Phil Caldwell still thinks about the 1981 sectional final often, even in his sleep.

“I dream every now and then that we won, but then I wake up and we didn’t,” said Caldwell, a former Jeffersonville basketball standout, with a chuckle.

You can blame his nightmares on Dave Bennett.

“We were up seven and then Dave went nuts with that baseline jumper,” Caldwell told the News and Tribune (http://bit.ly/1zI4hsK ) “We were favored by the AP (Associated Press) to win the sectional that year. As tall as he was, we couldn’t stop him.”

Very few could. The 6-foot-8 Bennett graduated from New Albany as the school’s all-time leading scorer and one of the top players in the state. He was a 1981 Indiana All-Star, was recruited by some of the top colleges in the nation, and is regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in the long history of NAHS

While it has been 33 years since he last dribbled a ball in the New Albany Doghouse, Bennett is still hearing the cheers from fans who adored him along with former teammates and rivals. It’s those cheers that now help him get through each day.

Life has changed in the past seven months for Bennett, who temporarily resides at River View Village nursing facility in Clarksville. Four years ago Bennett, 51, found out he was a diabetic, and he admits it was a challenge keeping up with his insulin and medicine.

Bennett said he regularly keeps in touch with former New Albany teammate Richie Johnson, who was an all-stater and also one of the stars of the 1980 state runner-up team. Johnson had not heard from his friend, and asked Kenny Booker, also a member of the ‘80 squad, to check on Bennett one day.

He found his former teammate passed out on the bathroom floor. Bennett’s blood sugar reading was 900.

While he recovered, doctors later found an ulcer on his foot caused by diabetes, and told him the bacteria was spreading quickly. For Bennett to survive, he would need to have his right leg amputated at the knee.

It was the only way.

The surgery was in April and his prosthetic leg was fitted July 4. Bennett is rehabbing at River View, determined to win this game as well.

“You are an athlete your whole life, you play basketball, and then you look down and don’t have a leg. I started thinking about how am I going to get along with a prosthetic leg,” Bennett said. “You have to have the will to keep going and realize there are people worse off than you.”

Bennett said his prosthetic leg comes from the same technology given to those U.S. solders who return home after losing a limb in combat.

“Louisville Prosthetic has been so great to work with,” he said. ” The people here in physical therapy have really been putting me through it. I am doing exercises I haven’t done in 25 years and they have helped me so much.”

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