Rebecca Greenwell Recovers, Triumphs After Injury
It is a diagnosis that athletes everywhere fear -- a torn ACL. The situation was no different for Rebecca Greenwell (Owensboro Catholic H.S./Owesnboro, Ky.) -- one of 33 players competing this weekend at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., for a roster spot on the 2012 USA Women's U17 World Championship Team.
It was September 2011 when Greenwell tore her ACL. Playing for USA Basketball at the inaugural FIBA 3x3 Youth World Championship in Italy, the USA was just a minute or two into its semifinal game against the host country when Greenwell injured her knee. Having already lost Taya Reimer (Hamilton Southeastern H.S./Fishers, Ind.) to a sprained ankle on the first day, the USA's Kaela Davis (Buford H.S./Suwanee, Ga.) and Linnae Harper (Whitney Young H.S./Chicago, Ill.) gallantly battled two-versus-three against Italy and went into overtime before succumbing by just two points, 21-19.
Per FIBA 3x3 rules, a team may finish with fewer than three players, however, it must have three eligible players in order to start a game. Thus, the U.S. was forced to forfeit the bronze medal match. After capturing the respect of nearly everyone at the tournament with their determination, FIBA awarded the team honorary bronze medals.
"It was amazing," Greenwell said. "I think everybody realized that, because all of the other countries were around our court. Linnae and Kaela just represented our country really well and made a statement that we could fight and we could have a chance at winning with only two players."
All four players are back on the court together at this year's trials.
"Linnae and Kaela really showed how hard our team could play," Greenwell said. "They tried to step up for us even though we were hurt. They definitely showed good character and showed that they are really good teammates."
Davis, Greenwell, Harper and Reimer also were members of the 2011 USA U16 National Team that helped the USA qualify for the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship with a gold medal and 5-0 record at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship last June. Their eight teammates are participating in the 2012 U17 trials as well.
"When I think back to the U16 championship, I think of the friendships I made and the funny times that we had in Mexico and, of course, winning the gold medal," added Greenwell. "I have a lot of good memories of all the fun times we had and how it felt to win the gold medal - that was just the best feeling ever. So, I hope I make the team again this year, so I'll be able to experience that again."
And while Greenwell remembers her time off of the court most fondly, she was impressive on the court as well. Named co-MVP of the 2011 U16 Championship, Greenwell established USA U16 single-game highs for field goals attempted (21) and 3-pointers attempted (10) and competition records for points averaged (15.6), field goals made (62) and 3-pointers made (11).
"I was really shocked when I found out I got co-MVP," Greenwell said. "Especially because I didn't know what it meant at first because they said it in Spanish. When I found out, I was just really excited and I couldn't believe that I actually won it, so I was really proud."
From a gold medal in June to a torn ACL and honorary bronze medal in September, Greenwell spent her junior season at Owensboro Catholic High School on the sideline, recovering from surgery.
"It was really hard because you had to learn how to walk again and run again," Greenwell said of her recovery. "It was hard being at the highest level, and then going back to square one and then having to work yourself all the way up. It was rewarding, even though it was really hard. Especially sitting on the bench and watching my high school team play the whole year. That was tough."
The year wasn't a waste, though, said Greenwell, who found that her international experience made her a natural leader back home.
"Going out and winning a gold medal and being named co-MVP made people on my high school team kind of look up to me, so I just tried be a leader," Greenwell added. "(Being injured) really did teach me some things about the game and made me pay attention to the details. I guess it had some positive effects on me. I got a new perpsective for the game, and it made me appreciate basketball a lot more than I did. Actually getting to jog again and getting to play again -- it was just an amazing feeling that I took for granted before."
Cleared to play just a week or two after she recieved her invitation to trials, Greenwell made quite a statement in her 2012 debut. Along with her seemingly perennial teammate Davis, Greenwell not only helped the Tennessee Flight to a tournament championship in the Nike Boo Williams Invitational in late April, but she was named tournament MVP.
"I didn't really know what to expect or where I was going to be at," Greenwell said of returning to the court. "Playing in my first tournament and getting MVP definitely gave me a lot of confidence coming into trials."
Confidence is one characteristic that helps when you are competing against 33 of the nation's best players. The 12-member roster is expected to be announced on the morning of May 20, and 21 athletes will miss the cut.
"It would be amazing to make the U17 world championship team," said Greenwell. "I really hope I do. I don't have all of the playing experience from this past season, so I might be a little behind in that category, but hopefully I do good in the rest of trials and make a USA team for a third time."