UK Women's Basketball

Three knee surgeries later, Kentuckian Greenwell 'back to normal' as Duke point guard

Owensboro Catholic's Rebecca Greenwell had two surgeries in high school and one at Duke. Her coach now calls her "incredible."
Owensboro Catholic's Rebecca Greenwell had two surgeries in high school and one at Duke. Her coach now calls her "incredible." AP

It was a he said/she said repeated rumor, but it stuck with Rebecca Greenwell.

When the former Owensboro Catholic star tore up her right knee for a second time — this time on a huge stage during the McDonald's All-American Game — she heard that a coach called the injury a career-ender.

"Somebody told me that a coach said that I would never be able to play again the same and just hearing that, wow," said Greenwell, who is now starring at No. 13 Duke, which No. 8 Kentucky travels to play on Sunday.

"It had never even crossed my mind that I'd be done and was such a shock to me that someone would even think that."

Greenwell's right knee looks like it lost a fight after three surgeries, which include a repaired anterior cruciate ligament her junior year with the Aces, ACL and meniscus repairs after the McDonald's All-American Game and then another to repair the meniscus when she first got to Duke.

She sat out her freshman year doing rehab like it was her mission to make that right leg stronger than any other leg that ever walked the planet.

"The reason I probably tore it again is I didn't put a lot of emphasis on lifting and continuing rehab once I was cleared to play," Greenwell said. "So this time, I knew how to rehab properly. ... I did things a little differently and just tried to focus on being as strong as possible."

Even now that she's back playing — back at 100 percent by her estimation — she still does those exercises every day.

When she first was cleared to practice last January, Greenwell admits that she thought about the knee when she was on the court, but now her only reminder is the small brace she slides on.

"My knee feels great and I feel back to normal really," she said. "I'm just thankful to be healthy and be able to play again finally."

When exhibition games rolled around in October and November, Greenwell was a little bit nervous.

It had been two seasons since she had played in a game. By the time she hit the floor in the Blue Devils' opener at Alabama, she knew it was show time.

"Once I got out there and got in the flow of the game, it felt good," said Greenwell, who netted 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals in her Duke debut.

The performance led Coach Joanne P. McCallie to call Greenwell "incredible.

"She found a way to do so much from the floor. We obviously played her from the three-ball, but she can do so much more than that. She's a terrific guard. She can rebound, pass and score, and she showed that."

With no true point guard this season, Duke has asked Greenwell to do plenty and she's responded.

Not including the Devils' game against UMass-Lowell on Friday night, Greenwell is averaging 13.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.2 steals.

The redshirt freshman, who owns the national high school record for three-point baskets in a game with 17 against Whitesville Trinity, is the team's second-leading scorer, its third-best rebounder and she leads in steals.

"Becca's always finding a way to get stuff done and be productive," McCallie said of the 6-foot-1 guard, who has four double-doubles already at Duke.

Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell, who recruited Greenwell out of Owensboro Catholic before she narrowed her list to Duke and Notre Dame, said the guard looks like the same star he watched for so many years in high school.

"She hasn't missed a beat," he said this week.

Greenwell might disagree, noting that she's still making the transition to the college game.

But she's starting to feel like her old self again despite what some coach might have whispered one day.

"I've been not as consistent as I want to be," she said, "but that's coming game by game ... I'm getting better every game."