A starter on the sidelines

Tyler McIntosh

A fall in the paint spoiled Rachel Bennett’s season

Rachel Bennett had big plans for her sophomore season. But an injury has forced her to spend the season rehabbing.

Brian Marks | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

Rachel Bennett still remembers the moment clearly. Who could blame her? It turned her from a basketball player into a cheerleader.

“It was at the end of practice,” Bennett said. “Coach sent me over to play the point guard position. I came off a high ball screen and came down the left side of the lane. I was going to do a left-handed layup; something happened with my extension going up, and it just gave out.”

What gave out was basically Bennett’s entire right knee. She tore her right ACL, MCL and meniscus. The former Division III All-Ohio selection, who also tore her left ACL in high school, said that the moments immediately after the injury, which took place right before the start of the season, were the most physically agonizing of her life.

After scoring 1,160 points and giving out 319 assists in high school for the Marion Pleasant Spartans, Bennett came to Kent State and quickly established herself.

As a freshman Bennett started 20 games, was once named Mid-American Conference Player of the Week and averaged 5.9 points, 2.9 assists and 2.4 rebounds.

“I wanted to play this year. I wanted to get my starting spot back from last year and just help lead the team to a championship,” Bennett said. “Yeah, I had my personal goals, but I basically wanted to get back and help the team out.”

It was not until Bennett had to witness the game as a spectator that she realized the grave nature of her injury.

“The reality of my injury didn’t hit me until the first game that I watched,” Bennett said. “It’s hard because you want to go out and help. It’s hard because I love playing basketball.”

Instead of getting ready to try to break the Flashes’ (12-11, 8-5 MAC) current two-game losing streak by beating Akron on Saturday and preparing for the upcoming MAC tournament, Bennett’s days are now spent rehabbing.

In fact, just being able to rehab has been a challenge. And a bout with mono delayed the process during winter break.

“We are waiting on my release from that because you are not supposed to engage in too much exercise activity until you are cleared,” she said. “Time is going to tell. It’s a long process for me.”

“To begin with, you are trying to get your balance and stabilize muscles back. After you tear something, your leg completely shuts down. There’s a lot of balancing, and I have to get my quad back to where it was and make sure I keep muscle tone.”

The only basketball related activities Bennett is allowed to participate in are stationary ball handling drills and foul shooting. It will be at least another month until she is allowed to jump.

Bennett said the support she’s gotten from family and friends has been crucial during her rough season.

“My family is a big part of my life. They’ve gotten me through a lot,” Bennett said.

Senior Mallorie Griffith, who Bennett said she’s looked up to since coming to Kent State, has also been a motivator.

“Since I tore it, she’s been there for me, telling me I’m going to get through it and everything is going to be OK.”

Bennett said she has no fear of re-injuring either of her knees and that she plans to be back at full strength to start next season, but right now she is just around for support.

“Right now, my focus is to get my knee back so I can be completely part of the team next year,” Bennett said. “Right now, I’m basically a cheerleader, and that’s really it.”

Contact women’s basketball reporter Tyler McIntosh at [email protected].