American basketballer recovering after eyeball pops out during Auckland game

American basketballer recovering after eyeball pops out during Auckland game
This file photo taken on March 22, 2014 shows Akil Mitchell #25 of the Virginia Cavaliers shooting against the Memphis Tigers in the first half during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PNC Arena on March 23, 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
PHOTO: AFP

Wellington - A New Zealand Breakers basketballer whose eyeball popped out mid-game said Friday he "freaked out" at the gruesome injury but was relieved his sight was apparently unaffected.

"I could still see out of the eye even though it was kinda on the side of my face... it was a weird sensation," forward Akil Mitchell said.

Mitchell was on the attack in an Australian NBL game against the Cairns Taipans in Auckland on Thursday night when he caught an accidental finger in the eye from an opposing player.

The US import fell to the floor writhing in agony and holding his hands to his left eye as horrified teammates tried to help.

"With the palm of my hand I felt my eyeball on the side of my face, which was when I knew this was worse than I (first) thought it was," he told Radio Sport.

The 24-year-old heard a collective gasp from the crowd and said he "freaked out" believing he would lose sight in the eye and his career was over.

He told the radio station that while the injury was painful, the worst part was not being able to blink, making his fully functioning eyeball red and irritated.

"Once I got in the ambulance they gave me a little pain medicine and some saline drops in my eye and I felt it slide back into place, which is also a really strange feeling.

"It felt so good to be able to blink again, which is insane." The North Carolina native said he was on track for a full recovery and planned to wear goggles when he resumed playing.

"I'm blessed and lucky that it's healed the way it has already... the doctor said I should be able to get back on the court pretty soon," he said.

Mitchell was even able to joke about the injury, tweeting a cartoon of a pair of eyeballs after being discharged from hospital, along with the words "...too soon?" Breakers general manager Dillon Boucher described Mitchell's recovery as a miracle, saying his teammates feared the worst when he went to hospital.

Though badly shaken, they resumed the game after the incident, losing 94-81, a result Boucher said felt insignificant after his player's injury scare.

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