New Zealand Breakers forward Akil Mitchell has suffered a horrendous eye injury during the last quarter of Thursday night’s NBL clash with Cairns in Auckland.
The American was accidentally poked in the face, which caused his left eyeball to fall out of the socket.
The match was halted for about 15 minutes as Mitchell received medical attention.
He left the court with a towel draped over his head and was taken to hospital. The Breakers later released a statement reporting specialists said while there was some damage, early reports were positive and the injury was not as serious as first feared.
Mitchell had vision to the injured eye and would undergo more tests on Friday.
To see an image of the injury, click here. (Warning: graphic content)
“Our thoughts are with Akil Mitchell following a terrible eye injury,” the NBL tweeted.
Those who witnessed the incident expressed their horror on social media.
— David Enticott (@thisis_DRE) January 26, 2017
Hell of an effort for the @NZBreakers to just play on after Akil Mitchell's injury. Sport's not supposed to make us feel that way.
— Charlie Bristow (@CharlieBristow7) January 26, 2017
The American fell to the floor in agony early in the final quarter after what seemed to be an innocuous poke to the face while contesting a rebound with Taipans centre Nnanna Egwu.
The injury left his teammates visibly upset, along with fans near the baseline.
Some Breakers players gathered in a huddle to say a prayer for the 24-year-old former University of Virginia player.
The crowd applauded Mitchell as he was helped off the court with a towel covering his face.
Mitchell later sent a light-hearted tweet about the incident:
👀… too soon? Lol thanks for all the love, well wishes, and prayers tonight. I’m home and seeing fine, more tests tomorrow
— akil mitchell (@ajmitchell25) January 26, 2017
The Breakers struggled to lift after his exit, with an eight-point deficit ballooning out to 15, from which they never recovered, eventually losing 94-81.
The loss ended the Breakers’ four-match winning streak.
They are caught in a dogfight for the three playoff spots alongside runaway leaders Adelaide.