Junior Jazmyne White spent the offseason working on her game. As one of the most athletic players on UC Irvine’s women’s basketball team, she knew she had to step it up to help the team defy expectations.
White practiced her foul shots in hopes of raising her free-throw percentage. As a leader, she mentored the other forwards on the team and encouraged them to make improvements too. She looked to be a major contributor on and off the court, but after leading the team in field goal percentage, and rebounds in the first 15 games, White has spent the past six on the bench – sidelined by a knee injury.
On Jan. 5, White was putting on a solid defensive display with three steals as UCI looked for their first victory in the Big West Conference against the University of the Pacific. Towards the end of the first half, White had the ball and turned down an open shot from the foul line, instead opting to dribble four times to the left of the basket. While looking for an open teammate, White planted her foot awkwardly. She heard a pop in her knee and immediately fell to the ground screaming and grasping her injured left leg.
Without a doubt, White knew that she had torn her anterior crucial ligament (ACL). She tried to stay positive, believing that everything would be fine, but deep down she knew her season was over.
The team doctor carried her to the training room and inspected her injured knee. The left knee felt a lot more loose than the right knee, a strong indication that the ACL was torn. With a damaged ACL, White lost all fundamental functions needed to move on a basketball court.
Yet the injury didn’t distract her from showing support for her team. UCI won the game 77-75 in overtime.
“They all stepped up and we got the win that night,” White said. “That’s all I cared about. I just wanted to get that win.”
Out for the rest of the season, White is content that UCI has been keeping their NCAA Tournament hopes alive, standing in third place in the Big West.
“Everyone on the team has stepped up since my injury,” White said. “I am very proud of them. I’ve always been supportive of my team. Now that’s going to be my main goal, but from a different perspective.”
White has tried to remain positive and looked to help the team in whatever way she can. During practice she has been mentoring freshman Methlyn Onogomuho. White finds many similarities between she and Onogomuho in terms of athleticism and playing style.
“I often tell her, ‘Meth, you’re the quickest on the court!’” White said. “I told Meth not to think so much and play basketball. I knew back when I was a freshman I did the same thing.”
During games, White has been learning more from the bench. Watching her team play without her is a new perspective for the injured forward. She has learned more about how the offense and defense are run.
“You don’t get to see everything when you’re playing,” she said. “Sitting down on the bench, it’s a different ballgame.”
Initially after the injury, White was put on crutches for a week before she was able to walk again. However, White did not have the freedom to run or play whatsoever. Her knee is bandaged and braced to keep her knee stable while the ligament heals. Every day, she comes to the training room an hour before practice to rehabilitate. Her exercises include exercise bikes for cardio, step-ups and wall slides to help her knees adjust to different ranges of motion.
“I can’t really run right now,” she said. “I’ll probably buckle and fall. I’m just walking, taking the stairs up slowly.”
White would obviously prefer to play this season than sit out. Regardless, she has accepted her situation and is making the most out of it. Her time away from basketball has helped her stay ahead in her classes. White’s teammates have been looking out for her, making sure that she is happy and keeping her accountable while she rehabilitates her knee.
“Our team is about positive attitude. Getting down on myself doesn’t get me anywhere,” White said. “I feel like everything happens for a reason.”
White desires to get back for suicides and squats with her teammates. But she knows she has to take her recovery one step at a time before she can get back on court.
“Of course it sucks. I want to play,” she said. “But I have to be positive. I have to be patient and I need to come back next season and play harder.”