Taking the Last Shot

My ACL Story

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.

No dice.

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…

BHAM!

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, 

Sincerely,

Lili

48 thoughts on “My ACL Story

  1. Wonderful perspective on life and basketball, particularly as the injury is so recent. I am sure you will be successful throughout your post Nortre Dame ventures. Good luck.

      1. Lily,
        You are an amazing, talented and beautiful young lady. I pray God’s blessings over your life. You will always be a super star in my eyes.
        Peace and Blessings

    1. Hello Lil Cuz, we are So……..proud of your contributions to woman’s basketball and the accomplishments you obtained while playing. We know the sky is the limit for you and the family foundation from which you have blossom gives you the strength and intelligence to continue on. We love you always, Cuz’ns Ron, Missy, Ethan, Evan, Caprina & Ceonna, the Pipion’s

  2. We are so proud of you Lili!! Continue to be great in ALL that you do. We will be watching to see where you go from here, all the while cheering for you and your future. We love you.

  3. Wow! I also think you might have a career as a writer, that apple didn’t fall too far from Mom’s tree. Blessings to you Lil’ speedy recovery and bright blessed future

  4. I remember this little girl with bright eyes who upon first sight melted my heart. When she was leaving I gave her a treasured paper clip man and told her to remember me. Lili has always been that special little girl whose smile was contagious. All these years later I watch as she deminates the basketball court always with her same smile I remember. You have made your mark on college basketball and you will always be the superstar that other young girls will want to “be like.” I know it may be short lived but you come from great parents who made the best moves when the cards were stacked against them…so the best of Lili has yet to unfold. Be bright, be optimistic and be you…whatever the next move is that will always be enough. Love you Lili Always Rena

  5. Mindset, maturity, character, confidence…wow. Such an impressive teammate and person.

    “Just like moons and like suns,
    With the certainty of tides,
    Just like hopes springing high,
    Still I’ll rise.” Maya Angelou

  6. Always proud of you LiLi! You’ve got your mom’s genes and no matter what you put your hands to do, you’re gonna be successful!

  7. So very well spoken, and an awesome perspective!! This is not the end….you have grown into a wonderful young lady and whatever you put your mind to, you will accomplish. We will continue to support you as you transition into the next season of your life. Keep your head up and if you start to feel a little down, reach out, I’m always here for you, love you!!

  8. I had the great privilege of meeting you along with your Mom and Dad in New Orleans at the Final 4 .. your graduation gift .. WOW.
    I was your #1 Fan from Connecticut as you started your college career at Stanford.. now as a graduate student at ND.
    You are destined to do great things with your life. Keep a positive attitude along with your faith.
    Respectfully,
    Diane E Mead

  9. Lili, this is not the end only the beginning.. You are beyond amazing, you have accomplished more than I could ever dream of. Keep your head to the sky. You are on your way. Be blessed. Love you.

  10. It really, really stinks. All of us who’ve known you more than 5 minutes already know you’ll take these lemons and make the best lemonade ever, sweetened by the best family and friends support team ever. But it’s OK to spend a few seconds on the really, really stinks part. And even to revisit it a time or two. Make certain you give yourself permission to grieve the loss of such an important part of your life. And when you’re ready, Little Phoenix, we’ll all be watching to see what you pull out of your big back of amazement for the next round. Love you, Lili.

  11. So sorry for your injury! You were a great addition to the ND team, and sorry not to see you in the games. Classy post and a great representation of ND and Stanford! Good luck coming back from this and in life 🙂

  12. My dear Lili, I pray that your next journey will be just as awesome and adventurous! So glad I got to see you play and I wish you a healthy recovery! Love, Edie 💜

  13. Lili, I have known your mom for MANY years and watched you grow (through pictures) into an amazing woman! God bless you in this next chapter of your life. But without a hint of doubt the woman that wrote this will be a superstar no matter what the endeavor!

  14. It was a pleasure watching you here at ND so sorry to see your season end in such a way. With your positive attitude you will have much success in whatever you do in the future,Good Luck.

  15. Although we’ve never met I feel like I know you from knowing your pops since our college days at Baldwin Wallace. There is so much more on the road ahead and so many ways you can positively impact the lives if others with your experiences. Keep God first in your life and continue to let your light shine. You are a true Superstar !!! Much love… Silk

  16. Lili
    So sorry for this bump in your life. I remember your first game at Stanford where I met your dad and I told him “I’m going to have fun watching this young lady over the years” we all have, you brought a real excitement to the court.
    God Bless you in all your endeavors.
    Bill (the button guy)

  17. Lili,
    Kim and I was at the aggressive ball playing you displayed
    during Wake Forrest game. We are so sorry about the injury but you have done extremely well and you are truly a superstar of life, your journey have just begun. We will always love you because you are family, take care and stay focus.

  18. Lili,
    Although this is a disappointment; because I know how much you love ❤️ the game. Sweetheart, you were born from greatness and greatness has NO LIMITS!!! The best is yet to come. Be optimistic; Continue to believe in yourself; Continue to do great things. Like an eagle 🦅 you will soar…
    Love you Lili
    Ms Dee

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