Daniel Hackett's breakfasts these days usually consist of yogurt drinks and his lunches are often protein shakes. It sounds like a familiar diet plan.
Except forget about that sensible dinner.
Hackett's final meal of the day is usually some sort of unappetizing concoction, whatever the USC sophomore guard can blend that will slip between the gaps in his teeth. Recently he pureed chicken and mashed potatoes with a little milk.
"It's a weird taste," he said.
Still, it beats the taste in his mouth Sept. 27, when a bloodied and broken jaw during a pickup game started the exasperating journey that has curtailed his culinary choices, caused him to lose 24 pounds in five weeks and will keep him out of the Trojans' lineup until at least the end of this month.
Hackett said doctors have told him his jaw, broken in three places and wired shut until Friday, will eventually become "stronger than before." The 6-foot-5 sharpshooter hopes the same can be said of his game despite the lengthy layoff and a noticeably slimmer physique.
"I think the weight loss in a way has helped him a lot because it's lightened his body and has given him a sense of speed and quickness that he didn't have before," said Rudy Hackett, Daniel's father and the Trojans' strength and conditioning coach.
Hackett had already undergone a striking transformation this summer while playing with the Italian under-20 national team and practicing with a national squad that included Andrea Bargnani of the Toronto Raptors and Marco Belinelli of the Golden State Warriors.
"There's not a college guy in the country who did more than he did this summer," USC Coach Tim Floyd said of Hackett, who started 16 games as a freshman and averaged 5.3 points and 2.9 rebounds. "He played from the end of May through the end of August every day with pros in highly competitive situations.
"He was really confident and was really shooting the ball well. I just felt like, 'Boy, this guy has really grown.' "
Hackett returned to USC in late August and practiced with the Trojans for a few days before their exhibition trip to Mexico. Floyd said he did not allow Hackett to accompany the team to Mazatlan over Labor Day weekend because he wanted him to rest after his hectic summer.
Of course, Floyd had no idea how much of a break Hackett would soon be getting.
Hackett was playing a pickup game with several teammates at the Galen Center in late September when his jaw was broken and had to be surgically wired shut.
Early on, there were rumors that Hackett had been slugged by star freshman O.J. Mayo, which didn't seem farfetched considering Hackett, a tenacious defender, had been in a couple of scrapes with teammates during practices last season.
However, both players denied a punch was thrown. Instead, they said Mayo, after grabbing a rebound, had turned to pass and inadvertently struck Hackett with an elbow.
"Obviously, he didn't want to do it," Hackett said. "He didn't want to hurt me."
With his caloric intake limited, Hackett has struggled to balance his desire to stay in shape with his need to maintain weight. He embarked on a bike-riding regimen before quickly abandoning it when he lost too many pounds. He tried lifting weights but found his energy was sapped after only a few sets.
Rudy Hackett said his son's injury compromised his breathing and required close monitoring to ensure his safety during workouts.
"When a person is not able to breathe effectively, you've got to be very, very careful because you put a lot of stress on the heart and you have to be very careful about what you do and how far you push a person like that," Rudy Hackett said.
Hackett found that running stairs inside the Galen Center three times a week while wearing a 25-pound vest helped him meet his conditioning goals. He now weighs 192 pounds, down from 216 at the time of his injury, and has less than 4% body fat, according to Floyd.
Hackett said he still practices with the Trojans except during contact drills, when he watches from the sideline. His ability to maintain a firm grasp of Floyd's coaching philosophies will help speed his return to the lineup once he has the wire removed from his jaw.
Much to his relief, Hackett will not be masked when he enters his first game; doctors told him he would require only a protective mouthpiece.
"A mask, it shows weakness," Hackett said.
Hackett will savor his first meal nearly as much as his first game, though he doesn't know when he will be able to eat anything that requires extensive chewing.
"I haven't planned anything because I don't know how much I will be able to eat and how far I will be able to open my mouth" after having the wire removed, Hackett said. "We'll see. I've been dreaming about food since I got hurt."