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Girls Basketball: Claire Ryan ready to test her knee for Marist

Claire Ryan Marist. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media

Claire Ryan, of Marist. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 15, 2013 6:09AM



When it comes to taking tests, Claire Ryan is right up there with the best as an all “A” and “B” student at Marist.

One test she’s really hoping to ace will take place Tuesday.

The senior basketball player will have a “functional” test on her right knee to determine whether she’s ready to return to the floor for the No. 2 RedHawks, four months after having ACL surgery.

There’s one thing she already knows for sure.

“I feel 100 percent better than four months ago,” Ryan said. “So that’s good.”

It’s been a long journey back for the 5-foot-7 guard, who after a junior season in which she sparkled for Marist saw her hopes for an exciting summer filled with exposure camps and college recruiters turned into the most physical challenge of her life.

In late June, Ryan was competing in a club tournament at Marquette University when disaster, or rather, the first stage of disaster, struck.

“I was going up for a layup and I did a jump and came down,” she said. “I felt my knee, not really move, but I fell down. I didn’t hear a pop or anything, but it hurt really badly.”

According to Ryan, she was at first diagnosed with “jumper’s knee,” an inflammation of the patellar tendon, a tissue that connects the kneecap to the shin bone.

After a period of rest, Ryan returned to the court for a club event in Florida. Stage 2 of disaster was much worse than the first.

“I tried to play there, but when I went up for a layup I could feel my two bones together,” Ryan said. “That night it was super-swollen, and that’s when I knew it was torn.”

An examination confirmed her fear, and on Sept. 12 Ryan had surgery on her right knee at Rush Hospital.

“When I first found out (that surgery was necessary) I was devastated, unbelievably upset,” Ryan said. “But I came to terms with it. I wanted to be able to come back.”

The surgery was successful; Ryan said she was able to bend her knee at about 90 degrees just a few days later. The prognosis, however, was for a six-month rehab period, which would have resulted in her missing nearly her entire senior season at Marist.

“When I went back to the doctor after a certain point he told me that he couldn’t really say how long,” Ryan said. “That gave me some hope.”

Therapy, Ryan said, turned into a tutorial.

“When you’re at therapy they teach you how to jump all over again,” Ryan said. “They really make a point for you to make sure your knee does not go in or move.

“I’m not really sure what a lot of girls do, but for me I wouldn’t land with both legs and have symmetry between them. When you jump you have to, I guess, be strong with it and not favor one knee over the other.”

When the RedHawks started the 2012-13 season, Ryan was a spectator, missing practices only when she was at therapy three times per week.

“I go to all the games,” Ryan said. “It’s tough. Really, really hard. I just wanted to jump up and help when they were losing or needed somebody to go in. It’s gotten better, but the first few games I really felt like crying.

“It made me realize how much I really do care about playing and how much I love it, I guess. It really puts into perspective how much you have to work if something is taken away from you and there is nothing you can do.”

Ryan has spent the past few weeks gaining strength through straight-ahead running, sprinting and shooting. The lessons in how to properly and safely rebound, she said, have improved her jump shot.

On Dec. 26, before Marist’s game at the Naples (Fla.) Shootout, Ryan took part in her first pregame shootaround.

“It felt really good,” Ryan said. “It was kind of hard, too, because I knew I couldn’t play. But it was nice to able to warm up.”

Ryan said she’s looking at four schools — DePauw, North Park, St. Xavier and St. Mary’s (Winona, Minn.). What the view might have been had she not missed her Summer of Recruitment ...

“It’s hard to say,” she said. “It might have been (interesting), but I’m really, really happy with what I’m looking at. I guess that’s what I originally wanted (Division I), but after looking at colleges I feel that the smaller schools are friendly and I won’t be overwhelmed.”

Neither will she be, Ryan insists, when she returns to the court, hopefully in late January.

“I’m not going to let (surgery) change me,” she said. “I’m just not going to worry about my knee. I know that when I come back it’s not hurt anymore.”



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