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One last shot for Taylor

BY JACOB SHEYKO | NOVEMBER 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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It was never guaranteed.

It was never guaranteed that Iowa women’s basketball player Theairra Taylor would return to be the player she once was. The one who in her senior year of high school was a McDonald’s All-American nominee, the one who in her freshman year at Iowa made an immediate impact by averaging 8.1 points per game.

Now three years removed from the 20-month period in her life in which she suffered three ACL injuries, Taylor is the lone senior on the team.

“Those are definite thoughts after almost all of my ACL injuries,” Taylor said. “It is a tough process to come back and then repeatedly re-injure it doing the same thing. You kind of give up hope a little bit.”

But following her third ACL tear — one she suffered at a preseason practice during her sophomore year — Taylor made a choice. That choice was to give her basketball career one last shot.

“The coaches initially told me that it was up to me,” Taylor said. “They didn’t want to put any pressure on me to feel like I had to come back. It was definitely a decision that I made on my own and was just for the love of basketball.”

That decision is one that head coach Lisa Bluder believes says something not just about what kind of player Taylor is but also the kind of person she is.

“I told her she didn’t have to,” Bluder said. “When a kid can get her scholarship and not have to put on their uniform and not have to come work out for 20 hours a week, but she still does it, it says a lot about the type of person she is, the type of character she has, but also her love for the Hawkeyes.”

Now that Taylor’s senior season is here, it couldn’t have started any better. Iowa is off to a 2-0 start and fresh off an overtime 97-93 victory over No. 23 Dayton. And while it’s very early in the season, Taylor looks better than ever out on the court.

Through the Hawkeyes two games, she is averaging 9.5 points, 3 assists, and 2.5 boards per contest.

Some of this could be attributed to the fact that this summer was the first time in Taylor’s college career that she had time to work on her game instead of coming back from injury and being thrust into game situations.

“I feel that this is the year where both the physical and the mental aspects are on the same page,” she said. “Last year, the physical was good, but I was still lacking in confidence because I hadn’t had the chance to work on my game.”

On top of her fast start, Taylor and teammate Sam Logic were named as the two captains of the team.

“To me it was a no-brainer,” Bluder said. “Theairra’s the heart and soul of our team, she absolutely is. They play for her. You want a captain that people look up to, that they admire, that they want to listen to and be led by — she was a natural for that.”

Taylor’s injuries were once something that could only be viewed as circumstances that kept her off the court. But now that she came back from them speaks volumes to those who share the court with her every day.

“I think Melissa [Dixon] said it the other day, ‘You think you’re tired, you think you’re going through something, you kind of look at her and think, ‘You haven’t gone through anything,’ ” Logic said. “A lot of us haven’t gone through anything like that.

“Her perseverance, her persistence is just inspiring to everyone.”

For all the hesitation Taylor has experienced in her career, be it the hesitation of whether to play basketball again or simply the hesitation to trust a once injured ACL. When asked what she wanted out of her senior season, Taylor answered with no hesitation.

“A Big Ten championship.”


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