Taylor mentally tough and defensively sound for Bluder’s Bunch


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A torn ACL didn’t stop her, and neither did a fractured eye socket.

Freshman guard Theairra Taylor has worked hard to return to full health after suffering through some painful injuries this year.

Despite those tough circumstances, her play on the court can be best described as aggressive.

Arguably the best defensive player on the women’s basketball team, Taylor showcased her defensive agility with four blocks and three steals in a 54-51 loss against Michigan on Sunday night.

Playing 32 minutes and scoring a team-high 13 points, Taylor played an integral role in keeping the Hawkeyes close in their Big Ten season opener.

“Theairra, I thought, played very well in the second half on both sides of the court,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. “I thought she just looked a lot more comfortable in the second half. Again, she’s got a great career in front of her.”

The St. Paul, Minn., native tore her ACL during her final high-school game in late March. She described the injury as “excruciating” and said she could feel her knee pop and tear. Taylor had doubts about her future and how she would be able to contribute to the Hawkeyes.

“There was so much going on [in my head],” Taylor said about the injury. “I was thinking about the accolades that I wouldn’t be able to receive. The All-Star games I wouldn’t be able to play in. Would I even be able to play college ball my freshman year without redshirting?”

The first month after surgery, she worked on trying to get her knee to bend it or lift up. After that, she moved to using a bike and treadmill to rehabilitate her knee in hopes of being ready for the start of the season.

Her devotion to being healthy paid off as she had one of the fastest recoveries Bluder had ever seen. After making her debut against Northern Iowa on Nov. 22, Taylor has shown resiliency with her fierce play on the court. At only 5-11, she’s second on the team in blocks with eight, and first in steals with 12 on the season.

“I love it,” freshman teammate Jaime Printy said. “She’s so athletic and really good at reading where the ball is. She’s a great defender. It’s fun to watch.”

Taylor’s play hardly show signs of a player who once suffered a seriously knee injury. If it weren’t for her brace, she would hardly notice it herself.

“With the adrenaline, and being on the court with the crowd going, you don’t think about those things,” she said. “If I didn’t have a brace on, I wouldn’t even know my ACL was once torn.”

If anything, the injury has only taught her how to be more mentally tough in adverse situations.

Near the end of the game, with the Hawkeyes trailing by one point, Taylor grabbed a defensive rebound and was fouled by Michigan’s Dayeesha Hollins.

With only 26.8 seconds remaining, she missed the free throw that would have tied up the game.

Instead of getting down on herself, she knew the experience was one she would learn from and be better off in the future for.

“It was something I never experienced,” Taylor said. “All in all, it was a great experience to be out there, being a freshman in the last minutes of the game. You’ve just got to pull these ones out. It hurts.”

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