UK Women's Basketball

UK's Conwright offers Noel perspective on ACL injury

The UK women's basketball team participates in photo day at Joe Craft Center on August 20, 2012 in Lexington, KY. Photo by Britney McIntosh | UK Athletics
The UK women's basketball team participates in photo day at Joe Craft Center on August 20, 2012 in Lexington, KY. Photo by Britney McIntosh | UK Athletics UK Athletics

It wasn't a part of his plan.

It wasn't something he ever wanted.

But Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel joined an exclusive club when he tore a ligament in his knee on the basketball court Tuesday night.

"It's crazy (you notice) how many people you see have this devastating injury once you have it," UK junior guard Maegan Conwright said on Wednesday.

Like most UK fans, Conwright watched in horror as Noel crumpled to the floor and screamed out in pain.

She saw him grab his knee and immediately thought of her own.

"You don't want to see anybody go down that way," said Conwright, who shares the same unfortunate membership in that torn anterior cruciate ligament club.

Her left knee buckled during practice the day after Christmas. She had her surgery at UK Hospital one month and one day later.

On Wednesday, Conwright, off crutches, but still with a limp, said she's planning to reach out to Noel like so many other members of the club reached out to her.

"I think we're going to be best friends in the training room," Conwright said of Noel. "I think I'm going to see him a lot."

The hardest part is the diagnosis and the stages of denial and anger and grief, but once you get through all of them, there is light on the other side.

"You have to have a positive outlook," Conwright said of her experience. "If you drag on the situation, it's not going to help you. And I know it's hard to say that when it's such a devastating injury. His team's going to help him; his coach is going to help him.

"We have the best trainers, the best medical service. He's going to be good and he has to know that. ... Think positive. Think positive. Think of how you'll come back stronger, come back smarter on the basketball court."

Conwright has tried to embrace getting a different perspective on basketball from the sideline. She's trying to learn more about the game she loves by spending extra time talking to coaches.

"It's a devastating injury to have, but you can come back from it," the guard from Arlington, Texas, said. "You have to have that mind-set. In rehab, you have to work just like you do every day in practice."

There is nothing easy about the rehab process, either.

"You do the same things every day and it matters," she said. "Every day it matters. You have to come every day mentally prepared. It's going to hurt and you just have to do it every day for a long time."

Coach Matthew Mitchell was pleased to report — as was a smiling Conwright — that she's ahead of schedule on her rehabilitation.

"That's a credit to how hard she's working and her attitude," Mitchell said. "These first few weeks out of surgery are so difficult; painful physically, taxing mentally and emotionally. And she has just done a fantastic job."

The junior guard, who played in 10 games this season before the injury, happily reported Tuesday she has been cleared to ride a stationary bike. You have to embrace the baby steps, she said.

"You've got to get excited," Conwright said. "It's that type of injury where the little things matter. So when something little happens, you should be really excited about it because that's a big step."

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