When Kat Tudor grabbed a rebound in the second quarter against Washington State on Jan. 4, she felt what no athlete ever wants to feel.
Tudor hit the Gill Coliseum floor and clutched her left knee as the ball rolled out of bounds.
Lying on the court, Tudor’s thoughts immediately went to her parents, Greg and Jennifer, who were in the stands.
“The first thing honestly in my mind was, shoot, my parents are here, they saw me fall down, they’re probably freaking out right now,” Tudor said Tuesday afternoon, recalling that moment. “I’m dead serious, that was like the first thing.”
Then her attention turned to her team and how she had “let them down.”
Once those outward thoughts passed, reality began to set in for Oregon State’s sharpshooting junior guard.
“Wait, I probably have a torn ACL or something else,” Tudor surmised.
After being helped off the floor and to the training room in the basement of Gill Coliseum to be examined, Tudor made her way back to the court in the second half and cheered her teammates on to a Pac-12 opening win over the Cougars.
While there was hope the injury wasn’t as serious as first thought, less than 24 hours Tudor received confirmation from an MRI that she had, indeed, torn her ACL.
Just like that, her season was over.
She had surgery on Jan. 24 where she also had her meniscus repaired. That means she will need to be on crutches for six weeks and then be able to begin her rehab in earnest.
“It was heartbreaking at first,” said Tudor, who was in the midst of a standout season that had her averaging 12.3 points per game. “Especially because my parents knew how much it meant to me, too.
"So it was hard seeing that. I felt bad for the team because I kind of felt like, honestly, I let people down in a way. It was really heartbreaking for me, too, just knowing that it was an awkward time, right when Pac-12 starts.”
The following week was obviously difficult and Tudor had to wait for nearly three weeks before finally having surgery.
She has made sure to stay as involved as possible with the team during that time.
“You have two choices: either grow from this experience or let it tear you down and I’m not going to let it tear me down,” Tudor said. “I’m going to learn everything I can from the sidelines right now and that’s what I was planning on doing right after. Right now my mindset is so high, I’m not letting any room for negativity.
“Yeah, I vent when I need it, like it’s healthy. But other than that I’m fighting, working my butt off in rehab and going to make the best of this moment.”
This weekend will be tough as the Beavers, ranked No. 7 and alone in second place in the Pac-12 at 9-1, a game back of Oregon, head to the Bay Area to take on No. 11 Stanford on Friday and then California on Sunday.
It will be the third road trip Tudor will not be a part of but being from the Bay Area will make this one the most difficult to miss.
She will also miss being on the sideline cheering them on as she did this past weekend in front of the home crowd.
Instead, her parents will be with her in Corvallis as the Beavers look to keep pace with the Ducks.
Tudor said her coaches have encouraged her to be a leader even though she’s unable to play.
“They want me to feed positivity and help the team out with what I see,” Tudor said. “It’s good have the bench outlook, too. I’m just doing my best to help everyone out and give my two cents.”
Aleah Goodman, who has played extended minutes with Tudor out, is one of the players who looks to her for advice.
“I love being able to communicate with her and just having her when I come out (say), hey, you have this open, you have this,” Goodman said. “So I love having her there.”
Her teammates will certainly miss her presence on the bench this weekend.
“She’s our sister (and) not having her there feels weird,” said Destiny Slocum. “Even though she played such a big role on the floor, she’s a big spirit off the floor. I think not having her at Washington and Washington State, you know it kind of hurts. But she was always in contact with us. So actually having her out there was awesome for us.”
While she has plenty of support from her teammates, coaches and fans — many of whom signed a giant card that was presented to her after Sunday’s win over Utah — Tudor’s parents have been by her side throughout the first few weeks of her injury.
“All I can say is I’m very blessed to have parents that would drop what they’re doing at home and come to Corvallis for two weeks,” Tudor said.
Having played more than the allotted 30 percent of her season, Tudor said she and the school will petition for a medical waiver. However, she has no idea when that answer will come.
That hope is what has partially been keeping her as upbeat as she has been since the injury.
“That is something I’m going to fight my butt off for,” she said.
Until then, Tudor is going to keep pushing forward through the good days and the bad days.
“I’m trying to control what I can control but it’s hard sometimes,” she said.