The game clock reads 7:43 in the first quarter of the Augustana-SMSU women’s basketball game on Jan. 4 as Shelby Selland races down the court on a breakaway opportunity.
As Selland reaches the end of the court and prepares to shoot, her right knee gives out and she collapses with agony on her face. She quickly covers it to hide the pain and the fact that she had just torn her ACL.
The game clock may have stopped soon after she went down, but for Selland, a new clock began to tick: the clock of recovery and returning to the game she has grown to love.
The initial shock not only hit Selland, but other members of the team as well. Hana Metoxen ran away from the situation because it made her physically sick reliving memories from when she tore her own ACL in high school.
The team had lost its leader.
“When our leader went down we were like ‘What do we do?’” Metoxen said. “We were all playing super spastic. We were super out of control.”
While Selland sat behind the bench for the rest of the game, tears could be seen not only in her own face, but the faces of her mother and her younger sister Myah, who sat in the stands.
“I knew it was my ACL when it happened, but I didn’t want to admit to myself that that was what I was facing,” Selland said.
So many thoughts swirled around in Selland’s head following the moment she hit the ground.
“When the injury happened it definitely went through my head that it could be the end of my career,” Selland said.
As Selland watched her teammates fall to SMSU that night, she understood that the team needed her.
She knew that if there was any chance at returning to play, she would do everything she could do to get back on the court. That is exactly what she did.
“You just have to be inspired a kid like that, who’s worked as hard as she has prior to the injury and then has doubled her efforts to give herself a chance to play.” coach Dave Krauth said in an interview with KSFY on Feb. 14.
An Uphill Battle
Selland spent numerous hours in physical therapy, working hard to make sure that she could return for the rest of her senior season.
“She started rehabbing the day after the injury,” head coach Dave Krauth said. ”She did a great job of getting strength in that leg.”
During those hours, Selland’s mindset was one thing: focused.
“I was more determined than ever during rehab,” Selland said.
There were many things that motivated her to return throughout the process, but the one thing that was constantly on her mind was to finish her senior season at Augustana on the basketball court with her teammates.
“I really had to think about what the sport meant to me and how I was going to react to adversity,” Selland said.
Remembering what basketball meant to her meant thinking back to all the times she had played in the old barn that was converted into a gym on her family’s farm in Letcher, South Dakota. These memories helped connect her to her roots of the game and pushed her to keep going.
Selland spent a lot of time in the training room every day, sometimes spending up to six hours working tirelessly to gain the strength that she needed to return.
“I had to do all the testing that said I was strong enough to give it a shot,” Selland said.
During her month-long rehab leading up to her return, Selland encountered a setback. In the past, Selland had had problems with her quads and one day when she was cleared to come back her quad gave out.
“She was only frustrated for one night and the next she was like ‘you know what I’m coming back anyway,’” Metoxen said. “She is so resilient.”
Leading from the Bench
As one of the few seniors on the team, Selland had already become a leader throughout the start of the season but now her role changed. While she was out rehabbing her injury, she still showed up to help her team by becoming a vocal leader from the bench.
“She became another coach,” Metoxen said. “She would coach them (the younger athletes) specifically…and she was kinda hard on them.”
Selland worked to adapt to her new role as being a supportive teammate by lending her insight and advice to the younger girls who were her replacements. This helped the younger athletes feel more confident on the court, and it was this confidence that carried the team to a 5-4 record while Selland was out.
The team, in turn, reciprocated what Selland was giving it in leadership.
Metoxen as well as Hannah Mitby, who had also torn her ACL previously, helped Selland through the process.
“She would come to us with questions; ‘What’s this going to be like? Is this normal?’” Metoxen said.
Having other people who had experienced this type of injury helped Selland stay positive and made her want to be there for her teammate even more.
“I felt like I could still help my teammates on the court and I wanted to makes sure I did my best for them as well, although they never once pressured me to try to play on an injured leg,” Selland said. “They were so supportive of me.”
Though she had grown more into her role as a supportive teammate, Shelby believed she had unfinished business on the court.
“Basketball has been such a huge part of my life and I felt like I owed it to myself to go down fighting,” Selland said.
Although Selland may have gone down in the first quarter of the game against SMSU on Jan. 4, she rose again to finish her season out strong returning to the court on Feb. 8 against Minnesota Duluth.
Even though she was only playing a few minutes to test out her knee, she was thrilled to be back on the court to finish out her senior season.
“Statistics and probability said I should have never got those few weeks of basketball after the injury so coming back and getting to play really was freeing,” she said.
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