HAMILTON — Shelby Nusbaum is back, at least most of the way.
The Badin High School junior guard missed a large chunk of the 2017-18 girls basketball season because of a knee injury, but she has returned to the court this year and is averaging 15.3 points through the first four games for the unbeaten Rams.
Nusbaum collected 15 points, six steals, four rebounds and three assists in Wednesday night’s 59-26 triumph over visiting Ross at Mulcahey Gym. Afterward, she talked about her recovery road since tearing the ACL and meniscus in her left knee during a home game against McNicholas on Dec. 16, 2017.
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“I see myself getting back to where I was before I got hurt,” Nusbaum said. “I’m not there yet, but it’s definitely coming. My teammates have cheered me on to get better.”
She plays with a brace on her knee, which was surgically repaired less than two weeks after the injury. It’s a memory that doesn’t go away.
“It was down on the baseline,” Nusbaum recalled. “They had a transition and I tried to block their shot, which was dumb. I should’ve stayed straight up. I came down and heard a pop, caught myself with the wall and then went down.
“I went back in the game after the trainer checked me out, and it just kept giving out. It swelled up huge. I went to the doctor, and I did multiple things. Tore my ACL, tore my meniscus in three spots. It was bad. The doctor wasn’t happy with me.”
Why go back in after clearly hearing a pop?
“I went back in because I hate McNick,” she admitted. “I wanted to beat them so bad.”
So Nusbaum, who showed great promise during her freshman campaign, became a spectator and worked to get back. Badin went 17-7, finished second in the Greater Catholic League Coed Central Division and lost to Franklin in a Division II sectional semifinal.
She joined an ACL bridge program this summer. It bridges the gap between physical therapy discharge and return-to-play independence.
“It’s a class with therapists,” Nusbaum said. “They lead us through drills. You’re basically getting back into everything — cutting, jumping, sprinting. That’s the scariest part when you’re coming back. I had just gotten my functional brace to play in and my knee gave out, but my brace saved me.”
The 6-foot Nusbaum received full medical clearance a couple weeks before tryouts. Physically, she’s doing fine. Mentally, the battle is ongoing. The fear of getting hurt again is always lurking in the back of her mind.
“We’ll have shootarounds before games,” Nusbaum said. “I tried to do these little drills without my brace and I couldn’t do a move, like I was too scared. Hopefully I’ll get out of that. I’m still a diver on the court. I’m not afraid to do that.”
She’s excited to be 4-0 and all-in on Badin’s goal of continued success this year. She conceded it was a little insulting for the Rams to be picked last in the GCLC Central preseason coaches poll, with Badin moving toward its league opener against visiting Fenwick on Saturday night.
Ross challenged Badin for a while Wednesday. Badin was up 9-8 after one quarter and 30-20 at halftime, but Ross managed two field goals the rest of the way and finished with 38 turnovers.
“We were slowing the game down ourselves by putting them at the foul line with reach-in fouls and giving up 10 offensive rebounds in the first half,” Badin coach Tom Sunderman said. “In the second half, we gave up one offensive rebound and they shot a lot less free throws. We were able to score and get into our press. It was more of our pace.”
Emma Broermann had 20 points, 13 rebounds and five steals for Badin, pushing her career point total to 960. Claire MacGowan tossed in seven points, and Jaelynn Scowden added six points and five boards.
“We’re a work in progress,” Sunderman said. “We talked about our run-and-jump at the beginning of the year. When we’ve run it in the past, it’s never good until January. There’s a lot of communication things you’ve got to learn.
“We’ve got a lot of moving parts right now. We’re going to have some setbacks … I’m not naive. It’s how we react to those setbacks.”
He said Nusbaum is different from most players when it comes to her on-court mind-set.
“Most girls, their offense comes off their defense. Her defense comes off her offense,” Sunderman said. “I don’t think the knee thing is the issue now. I think it’s going to come down to her understanding that when shots aren’t falling, I’ve got to pick up my defense, and if I pick up my defense, I’ll get easier shots.”
Ross (0-4) has some work to do as well. Brooklyn Breaker had eight points and four rebounds against Badin, but it was another exercise in frustration for the visiting Rams, who have 81 turnovers in their last two games.
“It’s just consistency and stop turning the ball over,” Ross coach Rodney Parrett said. “I preach to them all the time that the press is twofold. First, you’re trying to get a 10-second call. The second half of a press is always to get you going faster and out of your comfort zone. That’s what Badin did to us tonight. They kept us at an uncomfortable speed.
“We need girls that want the ball in their hands. They’re not afraid. They just don’t have that killer instinct of, ‘I’m your girl. Give me the ball. I will fix what’s wrong.’ I still only have four seniors. I still have young kids on the floor. But you still have to mature. I’m done with that being a crutch. I’m not saying they’re immature in life. I’m saying right now we’re immature on the floor.
“It comes down to three things — play hard, play smart, play together. You have to ask yourself those questions. Did we play hard? Yes. Did we play together? Yes. Did we play smart? Well, no. There’s your triangle, and you can’t win with one part of the triangle missing.”
Ross will be at home against Fenwick on Tuesday.
ROSS (0-4): Grace Stenger 0 1 1; Korryne Justice 2 0 4; Brooklyn Breaker 3 2 8; Veronica Allen 1 1 4; Hannah Lainhart 1 1 3; Dakota Snyder 1 2 4; Sydney Shaw 1 0 2. Totals: 9-7-26
BADIN (4-0): Shelby Nusbaum 6 3 15; Jaelynn Scowden 2 1 6; Emily Maher 2 0 4; Jada Pohlen 1 1 3; Emma Broermann 9 2 20; Claire MacGowan 3 0 7; Kelly Havens 0 1 1; Emma Adams 1 0 3. Totals: 24-8-59
3-pointers: R 1 (Allen), B 3 (MacGowan, Scowden, Adams)