Jan. 28, 2004
It just popped. It was a routine play in practice on December 9th and junior LaQuinta Neely’s right knee just popped.
“We were doing this drill and I was playing defense on Ganiyat (Adeduntan),” Neely explained. “So she was using this screen and I dodged the screen and denied her the ball. She was going to cut back, so I was denying her the cut back and then when I saw she was popping back out, I went to turn and my knee just rolled over.”
According to Neely, it felt pretty bad at first, but the pain only lasted about 20 seconds and then she felt all right. Although she heard a pop, she thought and hoped that maybe she had just hyper-extended it. How would she know anyway? Throughout her career, Neely had never suffered a serious injury. This time she had.
Neely had an MRI done later that day and the results revealed that the talented guard had torn the Anterior Cruciate Ligament in her right knee. She would have to undergo surgery and would obviously miss the rest of the season. The only good news was that time was on her side. Since Neely only played in six games, Florida State will apply for a medical hardship in order for her to sustain the year of eligibility.
“I feel bad because I’m not playing,” Neely said, “but I feel good that I will get another year, so it’s not like it was a wasted year, but I wish I was out there playing.”
Neely said she wasn’t scared at all when the injury first happened, but heading into surgery on January 6th, she certainly had a lot of questions for women’s basketball athletic trainer Bob Hammons.
“This was my first time having surgery,” Neely said. “I haven’t even had my wisdom teeth out. But it was good. They knocked me out real good and I had an I.V. in my hand – that was the scariest part. Other than that, it was fine. I had nice nurses and Doctor (William) Thompson did a good job.”
The rehab process began even before the surgery in order to strengthen Neely’s muscles. After a day and a half in the hospital, the post-surgery rehab process began. Neely works with Hammons everyday for at least an hour and a half. Although she has seen progress, the rehab process is going slower than she had hoped.
“Rehab has been very long,” Neely said. “I’ve been waiting for all of the muscles to start working so I can actually start moving it again. If my knee bends, I’m really happy. I’m waiting for it to bend about 110 degrees and it’s probably at about 97 right now. When those muscles, my quads and my hamstrings start working, then I can start lifting weights.”
With each and every day, Neely and Hammons are setting goals to strive for with the intention of having her back on the court to play summer pick up with her teammates. Until then, Neely will continue to watch and learn. From the sidelines, she is gaining a whole new perspective on the game and on her coaches.
“I’m now seeing the coaches’ point of view,” Neely said. “I understand why the coaches fuss. It’s a big difference seeing it from this side. I even want to fuss sometimes. I see what’s working, what’s not working and who’s playing hard and who could play harder. It’s a whole different perspective.”
So although Neely, a two-year starter, isn’t able to put up the 6.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game she was averaging before the injury, she is finding other ways to contribute.
“I can’t contribute as much as if I was playing, but I can help by just seeing what people are doing wrong and letting them know what they could do better,” Neely said. “They take it better from me because I played with them and I know when things get hard and your body doesn’t feel like doing it. Hearing it from a coach, well, that’s their job, but I’ve been through the hard times with them, so I am pretty sure they listen to me.”
Neely is one of those people who believe that things happen for a reason. This one has been a little harder to accept, but she has still found a silver lining in her misfortune.
“Being able to see the game from this perspective, when I come back, I can adjust my playing,” Neely said. “Also, no one on our team has had a major injury since they’ve been here, so I can set the standard on how to act when you get an injury. It’s not like it’s the end of the world. It’s part of the game. Plus, the extra year will give me the chance to get my master’s degree.”