The one phrase that will create the most heartbreaking chapters in an athlete’s career, "you need surgery for this to heal." Yes, many athletes are very lucky and never have to worry about injuries and the recovery process that results, but many end up in a doctor’s office on the receiving end of that conversation. For me, it was more times than I ever imagined.
High school and AAU were THE days where I learned my love of the game. Another factor that played a role in my fond memories of these years was the fact that the most severe injuries I had were ankle rolls, jammed fingers, and a broken nose. I stayed busy during these times, bouncing around from my trainer, to practice, to my improvised court on the driveway. I was an active kid and always tried to stay busy. My parents would drive in circles keeping up with my jam-packed schedule.
Then college came around and aside from injuries I was still in awe that I had earned a full scholarship and honor to play for the Duke Blue Devils. I will never forget the phone call I had with Coach P accepting her offer as well as my signing day, truly surreal. I look back now, remembering all these ambitious goals for my team and never thinking of the possibility of any minor or major set-backs in my basketball career. This of course would soon be at the forefront of my basketball career. Freshman season started, preseason happened, and thankfully after what seemed like forever that chapter ended. I think any athlete can relate to the 5 a.m., wake ups, long runs and weight sessions. There was a huge wakeup call going from the high school level to being a Division I athlete at a well-renowned basketball program. I loved every minute of being an athlete at Duke. Everything was going great, I loved my team and coaches, and I was settling in to college life and the expectations that had been set for me as an athlete and student. I had become acclimated to campus and I was increasingly excited for season to start.
Barely a day goes by and I find myself having the all too familiar conversation with the doctor where I am shell shocked by bad news. I had a torn labrum and have to have what the doctors call them “anchors” placed in my shoulder, which they did to my hip as well. And, just like that, my sophomore year was gone.
Despite being unable to play that season, it ended up being an exciting year. I learned a lot being more about being a coach, watching and learning from the sidelines. We did well that year and had a successful run. We ended up losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Oregon. I was excited to be part of this team and all we had accomplished, but for me personally, it had been a very physically and mentally draining year. I tried to stay focused on my recovery, and our team accomplishments. Again, excited for my return to the court, only to realize as I was making my recovery my left hip felt exactly how my right hip had felt almost a year and a half ago. I did not think I would be able to handle yet another injury and the rehab it would entail. It is one thing to go through surgery and an entirely different thing to start from zero to build my body back to being Division I ready.
That year we got to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen and I was so happy for my team. It was exciting energy to be around. We worked our butts off, but eventually lost to Connecticut. The moments from that season were super special to me because Rebecca Greenwell, Lexie Brown, Bego Faz Davalos and Erin Mathias were seniors that year and they were not returning. They are some of my best friends and being able to play with them really was special to me.
My last year at Duke, aka my grandma year, started with me feeling the healthiest I had been in a while. Our start very slow and mentally it was hard, but that comes with the territory of sports. We had worked so hard in the offseason, but things were not flowing like we had anticipated the first few games of the 2019-20 season. We had to turn things around by figuring out what the best thing for the team is and determine how to overcoming challenges. Keep in mind we did have one of the hardest schedules playing some of the other best teams in the nation. Once ACC competition started at the beginning we were 3-4. Not anywhere near the level of success we had anticipated for the season, and definitely not a good foundation for where we hoped to end up. Then, boom! After we lost to Clemson, something clicked and we were a different team. We were the hottest team in the conference, no one wanted to play us and we were just getting started.
We learned from that loss and turned our attention to the NCAA Tournament. My first college NCAA Tournament that I have been able to play in! Every time I was on the phone with family and friends, I would tell them how excited I am to play in the big dance and get to experience it. I could not stop smiling, even though we fell short in the ACC Tournament we still were one of the dominating teams at that moment. It did not matter where we were placed I was just going to be ready and pumped to play.