After ending her high school career as a McDonald’s All-American nominee from the state of Massachusetts, Sayawni “Say Say” Lassiter realized her dream of becoming a Florida State Seminole. Upon her arrival at Florida State University last summer, Say Say was slated to make an immediate impact on the court for the Noles.
This past summer she was able to show her potential with the team through European exhibition games in Spain and Italy, fulfilling the backup point guard role behind senior AJ Alix in an efficient manner. Her work toward the regular season continued as she returned back to Tallahassee, working out with an intensity that would prepare her for her first collegiate season.
In September, Say Say was doing individual workouts when she went up for a lay-up. When she landed she felt her knee buckle, then came the onset of a pain that was all too familiar – She had suffered a season-ending knee injury.
“I didn’t want to think it was torn, it hurt a lot but I felt fine after,” Say Say said. This is not Say Say’s first run-in with this injury. The first time she went through an injury like this was in the opposite knee during her sophomore year of high school. That tear occurred while she was in transition from defense to offense. It caused her to sit out her sophomore season at Newton North High School in Dorchester, Mass.
The biggest difference about these two experiences was the rehab process along with the technology being used in her treatments. She has entrusted her recovery to athletic trainer Emily Hutcherson, who along with her knowledgeable training assistants Rachel Lewis and Candace Rasher, work with her tirelessly to ensure she gets a full recovery.
“The second time is definitely better because of the knowledge of the athletic trainer I work with in Emily, and the equipment that we have now gets me ready to get back playing,” Lassiter added about her knee injury. Regarding Say Say’s return, Hutcherson is being cautious and methodical, being sure not to push the timetable.
“It’s too soon to tell on a timeline, it’s a general 6-8 months before you start progression back into play,” Hutcherson said. “But she’s already started running on the anti-gravity treadmill and actually just started agilities in a brace.”
With this season-ending injury, Say Say feels she has missed the opportunity for one of the most important things a young athlete can gain: Experience. Florida State Women’s Basketball has already signed five incoming freshmen to the 2018 class, ranking fourth in the nation by ESPNW. Her goal was to become a mentor to them, and to help navigate them through the tough ACC schedule the Noles play along with the emotions that come with playing on such a large stage.
More than anything, her knee injury has been a learning experience. She felt the hardest part of this experience was to overcome the mental challenges associated with the injury, rather than the physical challenge.
“Just going through that mental mayhem of doing the whole process again, and not being able to play for a long time again,” was one of the worst parts of the injury, Lassiter added. Through it all, it has taught her most about the strength of her work ethic and perseverance.
Moving forward, Say Say has the goal of filling the shoes of her current teammate Alix, who is in her first and final season at Florida State as a graduate transfer.
It has been beneficial for Say Say to see the day-to-day work that Alix puts in. Lassiter says that Alix “does a lot right now with points and assists,” always making the right decisions with the ball constantly in her hands. Alix’s ability to find the balance of knowing when to score and always putting her teammates in the best position to score is something that Say Say looks to develop at the college level.
As she continues to grind day in and day out with another rugged rehab, Lassiter knows her future is bright. Her injury has given her the extra motivation to do everything possible to better herself as an athlete while giving the Seminoles another strong guard in the coming years.
And through the process, she continues to learn just how mentally strong she is – Something that will pay enormous dividends when it’s crunch time and she has the ability to rise up when her number is called upon.