SALEM — Rob McLaughlin sounds like a grizzled boxing cut man, Salem’s version of Mickey Goldmill of Rocky fame, when he describes Andrew Ruffen’s scar.
“It’s a nice nasty one over his kneecap,” said the third-year Salem High head coach almost admiringly. “It’s like the old-school ACL scars only right over the top of the knee. It’s pink and its raised up.”
Ruffen, who missed nearly his entire junior season, has pronounced himself 100 percent and ready to prove it during the 38th annual Greater Lawrence Christmas Tourney, which taps off Thursday with two first-round games at Lawrence High.
“It was the first scrimmage of the year, it was the first drive,” recalled Ruffen, a senior tri-captain. “I was going to the hoop. The kid took the charge. I fell straight on the knee. I heard a crack. I tried to walk it off. It kind of gave out on me.”
McLaughlin described it as a jigsaw puzzle. Thankfully, the doctors put the puzzle back together. It took screws, wires, diligent rehab and a second surgery in August, but the 6-3 guard-forward with the picture-perfect jump shot is ready to go.
He was the leading returning scorer last year, having averaged 5.0 points a game as a sophomore. It was going to be his year and his team. Until that Pelham scrimmage.
“It was the season I was looking forward to,” he said. “Joe Gallant and the seniors (had graduated).”
Ruffen, who has been on varsity since freshman year, tries to be philosophical about the setback.
“Better then (as a junior) than now,” said Ruffen, whose father starred at Salem and is a longtime youth coach in town. “It was one of the most depressing moments of my life. It’s made me stronger.”