WINONA LAKE – The smile on Brooke Sugg’s face has been a mile wide for five straight months. Rightfully so.
After missing most of her sophomore season to a torn ACL, Sugg fought back to not only get on the basketball court to compete her junior season for the Grace women’s basketball program, but came back with a vengeance.
Just getting to the point that trust in her right knee would hold up was a mindtrick in its own, one Sugg felt was the most difficult thing she’s dealt with as an athlete.
“The trainer looked at my knee and thought it was fine,” said Sugg, who hurt her knee at a tournament in Hawaii in December 2016. “I could still walk after I hurt it, and it felt like a sprain if anything. We went to the beach later and I swam. I was in Hawaii, I was with my best friends and was going to make the most of it.”
The process of recovery took a lot of patience and faith, as well as six months away from her basketball routine in the middle of the season. Having to relearn to cut, turn, walk and run on a ligament that was continuously tender was obviously tedious, but Sugg was eager to get back to the game she loves.
“The physical therapy, the muscle memory, it all had to be done and was a long process,” Sugg said. “Mentally, I had to get back into shape. I feel basketball is the only sport where you have to actually do it to get back into shape.”
Grace head coach Scott Blum was as heartbroken as anyone to see Sugg suffer the injury. The trip to paradise, of course, wasn’t a rosy return to reality, and Blum held out hope his sophomore guard could rehab and return as a junior. He just wasn’t expecting what he saw as Sugg logged 15 minutes against Judson in the team’s third game this season and never looked back.
“She’s about as big as some of the kids in our camp, but she’s a fighter,” said Blum of Sugg, who is listed at 5’1″. “But through hard work and dedication, you can do all things. As that summer went along, she was texting me that the doctors were telling her she was further along. But by day one and the first game, she came in ready to go. Even in practice she didn’t miss much time. Her mindset was that she wanted to get back and help the team. Most mindsets of girls I’ve seen get hurt is that they let the team down. And that’s awful that their thought process was that way. It wasn’t her fault that she got hurt. But she was determined to get back and contribute.”
Per the sports information department at Grace, Sugg held quite a distinctive statistical feat as she was the only player in the NAIA to finish this season in the 45/40/90 club, ending at 45 percent from the floor, 43 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line.
Sugg led the team in scoring at 14.0 points per game and also paced Grace in three-pointers made (75), free throw percentage (90) and minutes per game (26.5). The Lady Lancers finished 20-13 overall, just the second time in program history the team eclipsed the 20-win barrier. Grace placed fifth at the NCCAA National Championships in mid-March, winning its final two games to end the season. Grace went 10-4 down the stretch and loses just one senior, Kelsie Peterson, as Sugg is just one three juniors that return as seniors next fall.
Sugg led Grace in scoring as a sophomore before the injury, putting up 12.8 points per night in Grace’s 17 games. As a freshman, she started 10 of the team’s 25 games and led the Lancers at 79 percent from the free throw line. Sugg came to Grace as Fishers High School’s all-time leading scorer, having been the only girls player to eclipse 1,000 points at the time. Her outlook on her final season in Winona Lake is very good.
“We want to win a national title,” Sugg said. “We want to go to Iowa and play in the NAIA. We have a lot of experience returning. For me and the other seniors, it’s our last year to play the game we played our whole life. There is so much motivation.”
Not that Sugg doesn’t need any more motivation.