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S-I-E-N-A healthy side of life

Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor

Photos: Siena College Athletics

Injuries happen in every sport. Sometimes the timing of those injuries aren't the best.

Siena College sophomore basketball player Emina Selimovic was just coming off a torn ACL when the recruiting started to quickly heat up. Not knowing how her injury would affect her recruiting, Selimovic was able to play a tournament in Atlanta.

It was there she was first recruited by Siena for the first time.

“I was recruited by Siena at the end of my sophomore season at the AAU nationals in Atlanta,” stated Selimovic . “I had just come back from my ACL injury, and that was one of my first tournaments back, And, that’s when they kind of showed interest in me. When I visited Siena, I loved how the campus was small, and how everything was in a short walking distance.”

One of the main reasons for choosing Siena, over others schools that came after her, was the community aspects. When going on her visit, Selimovic could feel how much the basketball team was like a family.

It was just a different feel Selimovic got then when she visited others schools. Also, there is no football team at the college. So, basketball is the big sport when it comes to things to do in the middle of winter in Albany, NY.

All eyes are on both the men’s and women’s basketball programs all season long, as they take the journey to get the NCAA tournament in March.

“I really enjoyed the community here,” stated Selimovic . “It felt like a family atmosphere, and Seina doesn’t have a football team, so that offered a bigger chance for the basketball program to shine. I feel by having basketball as the main sport at the school also impacted my decision, because the community really just focuses on Siena basketball.”

While she found a great home at Siena, Selimovic didn’t know how her basketball career was going to pan out. No one knows how they will come back from their first major injury of their career.

There is always a lot of doubt that enters an athletes mind right away. While, they know they will be better in due time, it’s still the long process of going through the rehab of the injury. Rehab can play some mind tricks on an athlete as they grind every day to get back to how they were.

They want to get back stronger and faster, and when that doesn’t happen as quickly as they want it to, then doubt starts to creep in. Staying mentally focused, and prepared, might be the best thing an athlete can do.

Selimovic went through some of that doubt as she was looking to get back to the type of athlete she was before the injury.

“The ACL injury was definitely both mentality and physically draining,” explained Selimovic . “When I had torn my ACL it was known right away by my trainer. When I had surgery, I was recovering for about 10 months, and my physical therapy I was doing constantly.”

Selimovic is the type of person that was just trying grind through her physical therapy. There was always the end goal in sight. She knew where she wanted to end up. Selimovic was always looking forward and never back.

She never played the woe is me card. It was an unfortunate injury, but it happened, Now, it was how do I get back faster and stronger than I was before.

“I would do physical therapy with my therapist, then I would go home and do more physical therapy,” stated Selimovic . “In my head, I just tried to keep looking forward, and not look at the moment - and look at all the negatives at the time. I just tried to always have a positive, optimistic outlook, and just see myself playing on the floor again. Because, I knew, my goal was to play Division I basketball, and get a scholarship for college. So, that’s where I was looking forward to, and that’s what kept me going.

Selimovic’s therapy was going so well at the time that she could have come back at nine months. But, Selimovic wanted to make sure she was 100 percent ready to hit the court running. She wanted that confidence to get back out there and contribute with her teammates.

Selimovic didn’t want any set backs, mostly in her own head, when she stepped back on that court for the first time in almost a year, She knew she was faster, and stronger, and just needed to get over that first mental hurdle of being on the court, running up and down - and taking that first bump in the paint.

“I took an extra month of recovery. I could have been cleared in nine months, but I took that extra month to really make sure that I was confident coming back into it,” explained Selimovic . “Since then, I haven’t had any problems with my ACL So, it definitely paid off. All that work, and constancy paid off.”

Still, the first time Selimovic stepped on the court was a little nerve wracking. In her mind, Selimovic knew she did everything she could to be ready to take the court again.

But, there is always some doubt. Even subconsciously a player will favor the body part they injured until they know it’s ok to go. Selimovic knew she came back stronger. She also knew they she wasn’t in basketball shape just yet, but that would come with time and confidence.

“I made sure I was confident enough to come back to the point where I wouldn’t be worried about my strength and injuring myself again,” stated Selimovic. “It definitely was a little nerve wracking because I wasn’t in the best shape as far as conditioning went, and losing that year of experience was huge for me. I felt like I was already a year behind when it came to reading and reacting on the court. So, coming back I was definitely a step behind, but I knew physically my body was ready.”

As Selimovic transitioned from high school ball to the college game, she also had to find a new role. At McDowell, Selimovic was the go to player. Even after her injury, Selimovic was the one that everyone look to to lead the team on the court.

She was the one that was dominating play every time she had the ball. There was a reason why she was being recruited for the next level.

In college, however, it’s all about finding your place, and role. Selimovic went from starting, and playing every minute of every game, in high school to a reserve role on the bench during her freshman year.

Selimovic won’t lie to you, the transition took a little getting used to.

“It was definitely was an adjustment for me, because I didn’t know how much I was going to play, if I was going to play,” stated Selimovic. “Coming in as a freshman nothing is a given. So, mentally, I had to be ready to play 20 minutes a game, or none at all. I had to be prepared for the game. That meant studying the scouting report, and the film, and knowing personal every game. It was hard to stay consistent with that knowing that I may not play, or I may play half the game.”

The hardest part for anyone not getting a lot of time on the court is to stay motivated. When you aren’t a starter, staying motivated, and game-ready, is not an easy task at all. There is a reason why there is the transfer portal now for college athletes.

A lot of athletes don’t want to stick it out. They don’t want to grind every day to earn minutes and the trust of the coaching staff. Selimovic isn’t one of those players. She grinded out her freshman year, and is now seeing more time this season. Sure, she has only started three games, but she is averaging 20 minutes per contest and more than seven points per game.

“The hardest part was to stay at the same motivational level all the way through the long season,” stated Selimovic . “The season starting in November, and going all the way through March, is a long and exhausting season. But, being able to be constantly ready for every game not knowing how much I was going to play, and the outcome, was definitely one of the hardest parts for me. But, I still tried to stay as consistent as possible because when I had my chance to go in, I had to show what I know, and what I can do.”

When Selimovic does get on the court, she knows she can’t over do it. The coaches know what she can do, they see it every day in practice. It’s up to Selimovic to play within the game, and not try to do too much.

Of course, that’s easier said then done. Every player wants to get on the court and take over the game. They want to prove to themselves that they can be a starter. But, playing within the game plan allows them to get their touches, and show what type of all around player they are.

“That was one of my issues last year. I would come in with a lot of tension and pressure, because I was coming in for a starter that needed a break - and I had to do my job,” stated Selimovic. “But, doing my job, was trying to make the least mistakes possible. So, that caused me to put a lot of pressure on myself, and actually led to more mistakes, and too much thinking.

This year is completely different. Selimovic has a year of college basketball underneath her belt. She has a year of experience playing in the role that she had last year. That has led to less thinning on the court, and just more doing.

Selimovic has let her athletic ability take over, which has led to less mistakes.

“The difference this year is when I come in I come in more relaxed, because I know I have prepared myself,” stated Selimovic. “I know I am ready. I know I have done it a thousand times over and over again. The key is just to come in relaxed, and with no pressure, because I know I have done it. I know that I am prepared. So, coming into it, I know what I need to do, and I know my job, and my role.”

With everything that has gone on the court, Selimovic has still excelled in the classroom. Last season, Selimovic was a MAAC academic honor roll member. Academics mean a lot to Selimovic.

She knows that basketball won’t be there forever. The next chapter of her life will look completely different in another couple of years. That’s why she makes sure she puts in the work in the classroom. Selimovic just doesn’t want to get by, either. She wants to graduate with a 4.0.

“School is very important to me,” stated Selimovic . “My goal is to graduate with a 4.0, and that’s definitely one of the hardest goals I can set for myself. I know it’s possible, because school I’ve learned to time management myself. I am a perfectionist, so I want to do my best work. I can’t turn in my work knowing it’s not my best work. So, that comes in to play with basketball as well. I want to do everything the hardest that I can, and the best that I can - whether that’s on the court or in the classroom.”

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