Stewart’s mind has always been basketball sharp, but her feet haven’t exactly been up to par. Before her senior year of high school, she suffered a left foot injury that required surgery. She recovered just fine and played a significant role for the Coyotes her freshman year. But before her sophomore season in 2012, she felt a familiar pain.
“I just stepped down, during what I think was just 5-on-0 offense, and it wasn’t even a super-hard drill,” Stewart said. “I just felt my foot kind of give out, kind of crack in that spot. And this time, it was my right foot and not my left. But I knew the pain, I knew where it was, so I kind of knew what the injury was, but I thought maybe I just tweaked something. And then, sure enough, I saw the doctor and it was the same thing.”
The stress fracture in her right foot wiped out the 2012-13 season. And while she went through an aggressive rehab program, there were numerous setbacks that forced her to stay in a walking boot longer than usual. At one point, she couldn’t do any basketball activity for three months.
“It’s a harder obstacle to overcome than most people understand,” Coyotes head coach Amy Williams said. “When you not only can’t practice during the season, but can’t do any offseason workouts, can’t work on any ball-handling skillwork and you’re kind of watching your teammates consistently get better in certain areas.”
“I think the hardest part was just not knowing if it was going to be good or not,” Stewart said. “Like, you get so excited when you’re out there running and feeling like a player again, and then all of a sudden, you’re back in the boot. So, that was the hardest part for me.”
But after taking every precaution, Stewart was finally able to get back on the court with no pain in her foot…and no knowledge lost in her head.
“I’m not sure if there’s anybody else that could have sat and watched the way Kelly did while she was out and then be able to step on the floor and almost, without a hitch, run all of our plays,” Williams said.
“It’s crazy how much an injury can just change your mentality on things. I mean, now when I go out there, I won’t take a play for granted,” Stewart said.
Stewart returned the the USD lineup on Jan. 16 against IUPUI. She's averaging 5.5 points and 17 minutes per contest.
*Author: David Brown