A couple of plays earlier, I’d gotten blocked.
I had the ball in transition, and I saw an opening to get to the basket, so I attacked. I beat the first defender, and tried to stretch past the post defense to lay it up.
Blocked. Still, it was a good play. Aggressive, pushed the tempo, and the ball was still ours. I put it out of my mind, moved on to calling the in-bounds play.
But a few possessions later, I found myself in a similar position. I pulled in a long rebound and realized it was just a foot race between me and one defender.
We both took off.
In a split second, instinctual decision, I decided I was going to go off of two feet and draw contact. From years and years of playing, I knew that going off of one foot makes you easy to time and easier to block. It’s also more difficult to draw a foul and get the AND1 opportunity.
So, that’s what I do, I see the defender out of the corner of my eye, I take one last dribble, plant my right leg to jump into her…
The best way I can describe it is to say that I thought my knee exploded.
From there, it was the typical process that I know so many other athletes have gone through before:
Back to the locker room for an exam, worried looks on everyone’s faces and encouragements to “stay positive”. Next is the flight home, the struggle to sleep without yelping in pain at every movement, the MRI, and then the waiting game.
Now that waiting game is over, it’s my ACL.
And unfortunately, it’s not just me. We’ve been hit by a wave on injuries recently; four of them being ACL tears. Everyone has been so strong, but it’s kind of scary. One of my teammates recently tweeted that we need ESPN Sports Science to come do a study on us to figure this out, I agree!
For the first couple of days after it happened, I think I was in shock. I kept looking down at my knee and saying out loud, “I cannot believe this”. I’d FaceTimed a lot of friends and family, gotten lots of tweets and texts, and skirted around the uncomfortable questions:
“How long do you think you’ll be out?”
“What do you think the rest of the season will be like now?”
And the worst of all:
“Are you done playing basketball?”
These questions are uncomfortable because they’re the ones I’ve been asking myself since the moment it happened, and they’re the ones I don’t know the answers to.
But there’s one statement, not question, that stood out to me the most.
As I left the doctor’s office Tuesday morning, I ran into the athletic trainer for our men’s team. (With so many injuries, unfortunately Notre Dame hasn’t experienced the “luck of the Irish” too much this season.) He said all of the usual things; he was sorry, he wished me a speedy recovery, he told me to keep my spirits high, etc. But what he said right at the end was so blunt and so true it instantly put things in perspective.
“It’s not cancer.”
As someone who has lost beloved family members to the disease, I immediately said, “You’re right.”
It’s not life or death. It really, really stinks. But it’s not life or death.
It’s just the next obstacle to overcome. And with all of the support that I have around me, I’m ready to meet it head on.
I’ve been documenting the season thus far here on my personal blog (you can use the bar at the top of the screen to get an alert when I make a post). I’m going to continue doing so, it’ll just have a little twist to it now (not unlike my knee… too soon?).
I’m still beyond excited for this team. I still believe in this team. And I’m still going to be a valuable member to this team. I just have to contribute differently now. It’s not about any individual person, and my goal is to step outside of myself, past my injury, and continue to help this team however I can.
I’m so grateful to the ND coaching staff for giving me the opportunity to play this season.
I’m also grateful to my teammates for accepting me into the fold; we’ve had some battles in the NCAA tournament against each other, but it’s been all love since the moment I stepped on campus.
I’m also grateful to my Stanford coaches and teammates. As I come to what may be the end of my college playing career, I don’t forget where I started. Whether it was making beats with an empty soda bottle in the streets of Italy, or taking UConn into overtime and ending their winning streak, I had a multitude of amazing, unforgettable experiences there and I gained lifelong friends.
Finally, thanks to all of the Notre Dame fans who have so graciously welcomed me. It’s been a pleasure seeing you all pack Purcell Pavilion, and I’ll be glad to see you all soon.
Thanks for reading this, and thanks for all of your well wishes,