Within the bowels of Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Samantha Logic stood in the corner of the media room. Her voice quivered. Her eyes welled up.
Not because of anything she did. But because of Theairra Taylor, the lone senior on the Iowa women’s basketball team this season. Taylor has suffered three ACL tears during her playing career, all within a 20-month span. The St. Paul, Minn., native missed 53 games from 2009-11.
But she battled back.
Since the start of the 2012-13 campaign, Taylor has started every game for the Hawkeyes (21-7, 9-5 Big Ten), including averaging 11.6 points in 28 games this season. She will be recognized during Thursday night’s Senior Night game against Ohio State (15-15, 5-9).
“Anytime you go through what she’s gone through, it’s amazing to see,” Logic said. “I didn’t see her at the worst times. Just knowing her story, though, how can you not rally around that? The numbers she puts up after three major knee surgeries, and with little injuries along the way. She doesn’t have an excuse for anything.”
Playing at St. Paul Central High School in Minneapolis, Taylor was highly recruited. Her talent at the prep level shined. Now 22, Taylor was a finalist for Miss Minnesota Basketball, an all-state selection, and a McDonald’s All-American nominee.
Her first knee injury came in high school. She rehabbed. Then she tore her ACL again 10 games into her freshman season. She rehabbed. Then another tear came in preseason practice prior to the 2010-11 season.
Iowa coach Lisa Bluder gave her an opportunity to bow out.
“After the third one, it was, ‘Theairra, you don’t have to do this. We’re going to pay for your education, we’re going to do whatever it takes for you to graduate as a Hawkeye,’ ” Bluder said. “My expectations were she didn’t have to come back after that. I would think incredibly of her as a person and as a basketball player if she decided not to come back, but she didn’t take more than a second to tell me that she wanted to be back and she wanted to wear the uniform.”
Taylor questioned her return as well, and considered doctors orders. But basketball remained at the forefront of her mind.
“It’s been a tough challenge, but when you love something and you’re around it a lot, you want to continue to do it at all costs,” Taylor said. “I figured I’d give it another try. This is something I’ve worked towards my whole life, to play collegiate basketball, so I wasn’t going to give up after three injuries.”
Taylor has had her share of low points, but credits the strong support system of her team. Those teammates — who have playfully labeled her the “grandma” of the group this season — have leaned on Taylor as Iowa enters its final two games of the regular season.
Bluder was impressed with the way Taylor returned two seasons ago, not only on the hardwood, but also overcoming mental hurdles.
“I think you’d be crazy to not get down after going through three ACL surgeries. One is hard enough,” Bluder said. “To go through the rehab, come back, have it happen again. Then it happens a third time. That’s testing any mental spirit; any person would have to get down after going through three of those.
“Just mentally coming back, and having in your mind … ‘Am I really meant to play college basketball?’ Having those kinds of thoughts is natural. I think she had to spend a lot of time battling those thoughts and winning that battle, which I think she’s done.”
Now it’s on to Senior Night against the Buckeyes. Two games remaining. Perhaps many more left to play, with the Big Ten Tournament next week and the NCAA Tournament to follow.
But Taylor’s time has arrived.
“I’ve been thinking about it the whole year, being the only senior,” Taylor said. “It’s a game we need to win, it will be a night to thank a lot of people. It’s going to be special.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball