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Ex-Fivay basketball player overcomes injury, joins Saint Leo

BY ANDY VILLAMARZO
Tribune correspondent

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— Injuries have always challenged athletes to their fullest extent in overcoming adversity and answering personal doubt.

For former Fivay High girls basketball player Alicia Artley, persevering through injuries is something she had to do through her final two seasons as a Falcon. Her problems began with a knee injury during her junior campaign, but she played through the pain and continued to average more than 18 points and 13.8 rebounds per game.

Artley’s senior season proved to be the toughest stretch after she broke her ankle on Nov. 27 at a team practice. Doctors initially told her the injury would take about six months for recovery. But after fewer than three months of rehabilitation, Artley was deemed fully recovered by her doctors and returned to play five games.

“I just had to stay positive and mentally tell myself that I can overcome the injury, but also not to overdo it,” Artley said. “I wanted to keep my mind on recovering and sometimes pretend the injury never happened. I think the recovery process was mainly all mental for me. I had to be mentally ready to come out of the cast and believing that I could recover as quickly as I could.”

Artley received a preferred walk-on offer from Saint Leo University and accepted. Artley said since she’s recovered, she has been playing as much basketball as possible, whether it’s at home or making the commute down State Road 52 over to Saint Leo to play with future teammates.

“I would say I’m 100 percent right now,” Artley said. “I can go as hard as I need to. I haven’t been afraid to play at home, and I basically play all the time. I’ve played a few pickup games over at Saint Leo. The players I’m playing with in the pickup games are in college and one of the girls is a freshman. It’s a much faster pace and they’re all there to play. All the players are very serious, but they have a good time as well. We have a new coach who played for Duke University and she knows a lot about the game.”

The Lions, a Division II school, made their first appearance in the NCAA tournament and had a school-best 20 wins last season. Despite the accomplishments, the team’s coach from the 2013-2014 record-breaking season, Nikki Jessee, stepped down this past spring and was replaced six weeks later by former Duke Blue Devil Missy West as the program’s head coach. West, who previously coached at Hartwick College (Oneonta, N.Y.), said she’s noticed the hard work Artley has put in over the summertime and expects the program to continue its upward trend of success.

“Alicia will be a forward for us and she’s been working really hard over the summer,” West said. “Last year with the team going 20-10, something was started and we have to continue upon that success. I’m big on family, academic and team success in that order. I’m just really excited about the talent we have coming in and our potential. It’s not just incoming freshmen that we have, but the returners from last year as well that excite me about this team.”

Correspondent Andy Villamarzo can be reached at andyvillamarzo@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.

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