Kat Tudor made her way into the Basketball Center last Wednesday before heading to the locker room to change into her practice gear.
She then took a seat on one of the chairs and strapped on the knee brace she has become all too accustomed to over the past seven or eight months.
After watching film, Tudor and her teammates returned to the court to begin stretching for their second official practice of the season.
But as the rest of her teammates sprinted up and down the court working on drills, Tudor spent her time dribbling up the sideline and working on some reverse layups.
Tudor, who tore the ACL in her left knee last January, is progressing well but is still not ready — physically or mentally — to return to action for the Beavers.
A doctor’s visit last week confirmed that all is going well physically and she is right on schedule with where she needs to be in her recovery.
While the physical recovery is going well, Tudor admits the mental part has been tough to deal with over the past few months.
“Mentally it’s felt like a long journey with ups and downs,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot through this and gotten mentally stronger. … Right now it’s an up because I’m getting closer but I know there will probably be more downs before I’m back just mentally getting back into it. It’s not easy to sit out for nine months.”
Tudor has relied on her teammates for support, although it’s hard for some to understand what she’s going through, and also her parents and friends outside of basketball.
She did say it’s difficult at times to talk with her parents because “I don’t want them to see me that vulnerable sometimes," she said. "They will just feel bad because they are parents and they care a lot, probably more than I do about myself."
It’s also been tough mentally because this is the second straight year Tudor has not been able to participate in practice before the season started. Last year she was coming off hand surgery and had to watch form the sidelines for a while.
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It was little more difficult last season, though, when she wasn’t so sure how the layoff would impact her role for the season.
“I think I’m established enough now that I’m a senior so people know what I do,” she said. “I don’t really have to worry about that but I want to be here and kind of form with my team again. But that will come so I’m not too worried because I went through it last year.”
Tudor, who is able to participate in shooting drills, looked to be in midseason form last Wednesday as she consistently knocked down three-pointers.
While she hasn’t been allowed to participate in any kind of contact, that will hopefully change this week when she gets to play some one-on-one with assistant coach Jonas Chatterton.
While she admits she feels comfortable with the physical aspect in terms of executing on the court, it’s what she can’t necessarily control where doubt might creep in.
“Physically I’m getting the reps and I feel so comfortable with myself to where mentally I’m like OK I’ve done this a million times now so I know how to land properly, I’m not going to do it again," she said. "But mentally some things like someone running into it or something that I can’t control, that’s a little scary for me right now.
“But I didn’t tear it for 21 yards of my life so I can’t see it happening again if I do the right things for it.”
While Tudor has no idea when she may return to the court, she is waiting to hear about a possible medical redshirt — she did not qualify for one because she played in more than the allowed 30 percent of scheduled contests last season. She hopes to learn that outcome by the time the Beavers play their first game on Nov. 11.
Regardless of what that decision turns out to be, Tudor will not rush her return and has begun to consider possibly sitting out all season and returning next year for her senior season.
“I’m not sure yet really what I want to do but I will figure that out soon,” she said. “I’m not coming back until I’m mentally ready.”