Women's College Basketball
Rider's Parsons looking to eliminate the letters
A C and L from the alphabet for the upcoming season
LAWRENCEVILLE--When a student-athlete goes off to college, they have conquered the SAT and the ACT, all the while worrying about their GPA as they look to gain eligibility from the NCAA.
The last thing they want to hear is ACL.
And they certainly don't want to hear ACL twice.
That is what red-shirt sophomore guard Alyssa Parsons was facing almost one year ago when the 26 game veteran crumbled to the court at the top of the key, with less than 20 minutes left in the final practice before the 2009-10 season opener last November.
The 5-4 Parsons had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of a pair of ligaments in the knee joint that form a cross, and this is where the name "cruciate" comes from. There is both an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). Both of these ligaments function to stabilize the knee from front-to-back during normal and athletic activities. The ligaments of the knee make sure that the weight that is transmitted through the knee joint is centered within the joint minimizing the amount of wear and tear on the cartilage inside the knee.
"It was a full tear of the ACL," said Parsons who took time out of her year long rehab to conduct this interview. "I was hoping that it wasn't another ACL injury but in the back of my mind, I knew it was. I was devastated. It was the day after my birthday and the day before the season was to begin."
That is not a typo, she said 'another'.
In an ironic twist of fate, this was the second time that Parsons experienced the injury having torn the ACL in her right knee during her sophomore year of high school at Archbishop Wood where when not injured, she earned All-Catholic League honors in both basketball and soccer.
Either knee injuries are contagious or misery loves company.
"I'm out of knees to injure," Parsons quipped. "From a mental stand point this rehab was harder than the first because I knew what I was facing. But in a way it was also easier because I knew what I needed to do to get back on the court."
With 26 letters in the alphabet and refocused on the X's and O's of basketball, no one would blame Parsons if she never uses the letters A, C or L in a sentence again.
"Losing Alyssa was a big blow to our team," said head coach Lynn Milligan, in her fourth season at Rider. ""She has worked very hard to get back and be that vocal leader that everyone expected her to be at the start of last season."
"Going to rehab everyday is a drain; it is a grind," Parsons said. "It is a mental drain and a physical drain. Knowing that I would be able to get back on a basketball court, that is what drove me."
"She isn't 100 percent," said Milligan. "But her competitive spirit won't let her not give all that she has. She is motivated and committed to what we are trying to do, both on and off the court."
After averaging almost 20 minutes a game her freshman season, Parsons spent last year watching the game she loves.
"I learned a whole lot about the game by sitting and watching this past year," Parsons said. "I learned about my teammates, more about my coaches and that experience is going to make my game that much stronger. I learned a new perspective on a lot of things."
"Alyssa will be a better teammate because of the perspectives that she gained when she was watching this past year," Milligan said. "She will be a better and more effective leader because of her unique insight into some of the things that make our team tick. Her basketball IQ started high and is even higher now."
Despite losing their team leader and captain less than 24 hours before the start of the season, Parson's teammates readily accepted her input to make their game stronger.
"I am one of them," said Parsons. "Even if coach Milligan said something and I said the same thing, you are more naturally receptive to someone who is a teammate and a classmate than say one of your coaches. You are more accepting of things from a teammate than someone higher up. I was a different voice who was able to articulate the things that the coaches were trying to get across to the team."
"Alyssa's work ethic I think has permeated through the team," Milligan said. "The young ladies we have in the program have that competitive spirit and Alyssa and her leadership skills bring that out more."
"I have a great amount of respect for my teammates," said Parsons. "Sitting out, I wasn't on the court and in their shoes but they still looked to me as a captain and as a leader in the locker room."
Off the court, Parsons has made the most of her academic career, earning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference All-Academic honors. "I came to Rider because of the reputation of the business program," said Parsons, an Accounting and Finance major. "The coaches recruited me and made me feel that I would be a good fit, both athletically and academically."
Parsons especially singled out her head coach for her infectious positive attitude in helping her overcome the adversity of the past year.
"Every day, coach Milligan and all of the coaches want to be here," Parsons said. "That attitude, that vibe, you want to be at practice, you want to work hard and everything that she has given to us, we want to give back in our efforts both on and off the court."
"If anything, I think that our team sees that with Alyssa missing last year and Shannon Ferguson's career ending (due to a back injury), we have a greater appreciation for being out on the court and making each moment count," Milligan added. "That Rider pride and the fact that you only get to play so many times, I think we know how much of a privilege it is to put the uniform on each and every day."
A year delayed but not to be denied, Parsons and the Rider women's basketball team return to the hard knocks of the hard wood, opening the season at Bucknell on November 12, exactly one year removed from Parson's injury.
"I have to watch her as a coach and make sure she doesn't try to do too much too soon," Milligan said. "I'm going to have to be conscious of that so that she makes it through the season. We both are extremely competitive but I'm going to have to step back and rest her at times that will be in her best interest."
Here's to the new season and the 'Parsons' 23 letter alphabet, with A, C and L a long faded memory.