January 27, 2017

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) An American basketball player's eye popped out of its socket after he was poked in the face while going for a rebound during a game in New Zealand.

Akil Mitchell, a 24-year-old former University of Virginia forward, was playing for the New Zealand Breakers in a game against Cairns on Thursday when the accident happened.

The game was stopped for 15 minutes while Mitchell was treated by medical officials, with his teammates left visibly upset by the incident. Cairns won the National Basketball League game 94-81.

On Friday, Mitchell said he had no vision impairment, but won't be watching any videos of the incident.

''(Teammate) Paul (Carter) really wanted me to see it and I was like, `I can't do it,''' Mitchell told the New Zealand Herald on Friday. ''It kind of makes my eye throb a little just thinking about it, so I don't know if I'll ever be able to watch it.''

Mitchell told the Herald he could still see from the eye after it had popped out of his socket, saying the sensation was akin to ''a chameleon, how they can see different directions.''

He said he felt ''truly blessed'' the injury was not more serious. Mitchell is likely to be fit to play in the Breakers' next match, though he will wear safety glasses in future.

''Initially it just felt like I got poked in the eye and I thought `this is going to be a bad one','' he told a news conference Friday. ''Then I felt my eye out of the socket. That's when I think I started to freak out a little bit.

''Of course there was pain and a sort of surreal perspective along with it. I opened my eye and I'm looking up and I can see everything. I touched it and immediately wanted to push it back in and I thought `that's a bad idea'. I could still see, still move it and I never lost vision. It never went blurry, thank God, and it's doing much better today.''

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