By Callie White
OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 27, 2013) – Coming off season-ending injuries, Oklahoma Christian sophomore Kaitlyn Morris and junior Krista Stevens have gained a deeper appreciation for their return to the hardwood this basketball season.
Their classifications are misnomers, as each have taken redshirt seasons and are actually more experienced than they might seem.
Morris, a senior in the classroom but a sophomore in the gym, came to Oklahoma Christian her freshman season from Kiowa, Kan. She started for OC in the 2010 NAIA Division I tournament, helping the Lady Eagles reach the quarterfinals. But the following summer, she injured the anterior cruciate ligament in one of her knees for the first time.
Morris spent the entirety of the following year rehabilitating her knee and put herself in a position to play her sophomore season in 2011-12. Four games into the season, however, Morris incurred a similar injury, this time to her other knee.
After an all-too-familiar year of rehabilitation after her second ACL injury, Morris returned for the 2012-2013 season and has not missed any of the 19 games thus far. In hindsight, Morris keyed on the mental advances made during times of physical struggle.
“Being injured has shaped me as a player because it’s strengthened my mentality,” Morris said. “You go through so many ups and downs, especially going through rehab twice. It’s helped me with my game to not get so down on myself.”
Stevens, an Oklahoma City native, made a splash in her freshman and sophomore seasons, breaking into the starting lineup and averaging 9.1 points per game in 2010-11. The summer leading up to her junior season, however, would present Stevens with a diagnosis that would put her collegiate career on hold.
Stevens, who was sidelined along with Morris last season, refused to gain nothing from her what should have been her junior season. Stevens found a different perspective on the game, commanding the bench and involving herself with the system coach Stephanie Findley had in place.
Stevens, who also experienced injuries in high school, attributed much of the support she received to her parents and her coach.
“My mom and dad really helped me and motivated me through sitting out,” Stevens said. “I had to sit out my junior and senior year of high school, too, so we’ve done it before. Coach Findley has also been a big supporter of me and she helped me through everything and has given me a second chance.”
Morris and Stevens have come back from their health issues and made an instant impact on a youthful squad.
Morris has started four games and is averaging 3.9 points while leading the Lady Eagles in 3-point shooting percentage at 39.3 percent. Stevens has started 14 games and is averaging 6.9 points and 3.2 rebounds. She hit a game-winning 3-pointer with four seconds left in a win over Newman (Kan.).
Both Morris and Stevens plan to take advantage of the additional years of eligibility received through redshirt seasons – Morris with a pair and Stevens with one. Their reason for this is simple, as Morris alluded to without a moment’s hesitation.
“Sitting out those two years made me really miss it, so I want to use up as many years as I can,” she said.