Sometimes the cost of playing competitive athletics is high and painful. Just ask Rider's senior point guard Alyssa Parsons.
Just two games after the slightly built 5-foot-4 guard had the greatest game of her college career, scoring a career-high 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting against Iona on Feb. 17, she tore the ACL in her right knee that finished her season and her college career.
And, it's not like Parsons had gotten through her playing career unscathed before that. She tore her right ACL as a high school sophomore and, then, tore the left one at the start of her sophomore season in the final 10 minutes of Rider's final practice prior to the start of the 2009-10 season.
So, this is the price Parsons paid for playing basketball: three serious knee injuries.
"Would I go through all that again? Absolutely. I'd do it all over again, endure the knee injuries again,go through all the rehab again, to be able to have the career I did again," said Parsons, not long after shedding some tears after her team suffered a heart-breaking 61-60 loss in the first-round of the MAAC women's tournament against Iona in her absence.
Most followers of college basketball, and even the most-ardent fans of the MAAC, might be hard-pressed to even recognize Parsons.
She only averaged 2.6 points per game as a freshman, sat out her entire sophomore year with the second of her three blown-out knee situations and played more extensively as a junior, averaging 4.3 points per game. Still, as the team's primary point guard last season, she only had 44 assists against 81 turnovers, a far-from-desirable ratio.
But she became more than a capable floor general this season, recording 87 assists against just 65 turnovers, a 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio that was fourth-best in the MAAC. Her shooting, just 26.9 percent from the floor, never made her an offensive threat except for that one magical game against Iona on Feb. 17.
"I took the first one and it went in, so I took the second and it went in and, then, the third ..." she said. "I just got hot, but my teammates found me with a lot of nice passes."
In all she had six three-pointers on 10 attempts that night. Two games later, the game in which she suffered her final knee injury, she was 3-for-3 from three point range. Until those two games she had made just 14 of 75 from beyond the bonus stripe, but finished her career by making 9 of the last 14 three-pointers she attempted.
It's only poetic justice that a college athlete who endured so many injuries experience a late-season surge like that.
Parsons made one final court appearance in Rider's final home game this past Sunday against Fairfield. Both she and Ali Heller, who suffered a career-ending knee injury earlier in the season, were on the court as starters on the Broncs' Senior Night game.
"The Fairfield coach (Joe Frager) agreed that we could be on the court, that our team would win the opening tip and, then, we'd throw the ball out of bounds (allowing Rider to insert subs for the two injured seniors)," said Parsons. "That was a nice gesture by the Fairfield coach."
Parsons' senior season, though, was about more than just some strong late-season shooting. Her floor-general work was a key factor in an 8-3 start to the season in non-conference games, the program's best start to a year since the early 1980s. It was a foundation for what looks like a bright future for the program, and Parsons can take some solace in her role of being around for the start of things if Rider does indeed continue to improve.
The regular-season wasn't as successful, a 3-15 conference record as injuries and other losses accumulated. The team had lost last season's leading scorer Shereen Lightbourne to a preseason knee injury, then lost Heller, the Sixth Player of the year in 2010-11, with her own knee injury in the season's 17th game. Two games later, at the end of the first semester, second-leading scorer Sironda Chambers was forced to sit out with an academic issue. And, then, came Parson's late-season injury.
"To end a season like this (with a strong effort vs. Iona Thursday) ... I couldn't be more proud of our team," said Rider coach Lynn Milligan, in a tear-filled post-game press conference. "For us to lose like this, and to have endured so much adversity throughout the season ... it's just not fair."
It's not fair, either, for an athlete to endure three major knee injuries, to endure the pain and lengthy rehabilitation of two to get through most of a college career with another surgery and rehab coming up.
But Parsons isn't asking anyone to feel sorry for her. She has no regrets.
A price to pay to be a Division I athlete? For sure, but Parsons leaves no doubt that she'd endure it all again.