On her feet: After 2 ACL recoveries in 2 years, Brittney Sykes is primed to play for SU

first_img Published on November 12, 2015 at 8:16 am Contact Connor: cgrossma@syr.edu | @connorgrossman,Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment. David Stone November 12, 2015 at 1:13 pm The experience was all too familiar for Brittney Sykes. The direction her knee bent. The popping sound. The rush of pain shooting down her body.She tried grabbing the loose ball, tossing it up while stumbling toward the baseline, thinking she was fouled. There was no whistle. As Sykes latched onto the back post of the basket to avoid putting pressure on her shaking right knee, there was no denying it.“I did it again,” she told head coach Quentin Hillsman, who huddled next to her.Sykes knew she re-tore her ACL on Jan. 4 against Notre Dame, just three games into her return from tearing it in the 2014 NCAA tournament. As she hunched over on the court next to Hillsman — covering her face with her hands — something within Sykes urged her to move. She wanted to walk off under her own power.Nine months prior, she lay on the Memorial Coliseum court in Lexington, Kentucky, writhing in pain after first tearing her right ACL. This time she got up. It was the first step to healing.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIt was more of an emotional pain and a mental pain than a physical pain. It didn’t hurt me.Brittney SykesShe pulled her jersey over her head to cover her tears as she limped off the court. Memories set off like fireworks. The monotonous workouts. The sleepless nights. The pain.The flare has slowly been fading from that Sunday afternoon. Training room tables served as her therapy couch for 10 more months, allowing Sykes to patch her wounds. The redshirt junior is ready again to suit up for No. 23 Syracuse, with a reshaped foundation to work on.She’s more of a shooter now with less explosiveness in her lower body. Her attention to detail is greater than ever from observing her teammates studiously from the end of the bench. She was cruelly reminded again that months of dedication poured into a cause could be snatched with one wrong move.,“It was crazy, honestly,” Sykes said. “I can’t put into words the emotional and mental toll that it put on me.”She was escorted off the court into an empty locker room. Dr. John Cannizzaro, her eventual surgeon, performed the Lachman test to see if her ACL was still intact. He tugged and pulled her knee to see if it would stop bending certain directions. It didn’t.That’s when it hit Sykes — she wasn’t ready to hear about the three-letter acronym again. She drained herself of emotions in the ensuing hours, sitting alone on her bed after her mother departed home to Newark, New Jersey.She thought about her last nine months of recovery she was about to relive and began to countdown the 10 days until her surgery.“I definitely told Brittney to keep pushing,” former teammate Diamond Henderson, who has also had two ACL tears, said. “’Don’t give up now because I know it’s tough the second time. You’ve got to just keep pushing if this is your dream.’”After three or four days of rest, Sykes sat on the training room table looking down at her first task. Trainer Karen McKinney instructed her to flex her quad. Sykes clenched her leg. She squeezed her muscle. She mightily tried to budge it.Nothing.Sykes likened her weakened muscle to a baby; it needed to be trained to fire. She initially drew upon memories and checkpoints of her first recovery, but decided she needed to check them at the training room door. She couldn’t go forward — or relearn to flex her muscle — if she kept looking back.,“It’s frustrating because you were just able to do this literally a week ago,” Sykes said. “Just like that it’s gone and you have to start from scratch.”Hillsman phoned his star player “about every two hours,” and Sykes’ mother, Regina Sykes, “about every 30 minutes to an hour.” Sykes didn’t have a lot to say, often caught up in the emotional toll of the situation.She’d tell her head coach robotically, “I’m good, thanks for calling,” just to get him off the phone. But she didn’t want to say she was OK, knowing she wasn’t. The mundane nature of the recovery left substantial conversations few and far between.“I don’t know if there’s much you can really tell them,” Hillsman said. “You’re trying to let the players know that you are there for them, that you understand the amount of work they’re putting in.”McKinney — labeled both as a best friend and worst enemy by Sykes — gradually brought vitality back into the disabled 5-foot-9 guard. Slowly Sykes progressed through quad flexing, leg lifts, squats and eventually walking on her own power.Sykes has yet to forget the walking, “heel-toe,” mantra professed frequently by McKinney. She alternated walking five minutes around the training room on her heels, then her toes, while McKinney punctuated each step with the phrase.With each set Sykes would ask, “Ms. Karen, are we done?” McKinney sighed.This time around, daily workouts proved to be both fulfilling and humbling. Sykes often found herself asking McKinney to remind her what week she was in, rather than announcing each passing week as she did in her first ACL recovery.“The second time around … I was just excited to walk,” Sykes said. “The first time I touched a basketball, I don’t know what month I was in.”Sykes steadily began basketball activities, shooting stationary with no jumps or cuts before adding movement. She tried to be around the team often, but was limited in participation until her anticipated test came: Boot camp.It was Sykes’ first participation in the activities in two years. Ten sprints in 65 seconds. She took off, cutting back on each line of the court. Despite nursing a fatigued lower body, she finished in time. She finished in first.To see a kid come back and be like she never really had the injuries is phenomenal. Now it’s back to being Brittney Time.Quentin HillsmanAt basketball media day on Oct. 16, the Syracuse head coach stood behind a podium and spoke positively of the perseverance and toughness exhibited by Sykes.Two ACL recoveries later, Hillsman believes the team-leading scorer of two years ago will perform similarly. “Nothing else makes sense,” he said. Sykes once again has the legs under her to pick of the pieces of a promising career, and once again, she’s back to basketball. Commentscenter_img Not sure if this was intentional, but you have the exact same graphic “Syked Up” in two spots of the article. Great read otherwise!last_img