COLUMBIA — Last season, Lianna Doty didn’t contribute on the court. She didn’t play a single minute. She didn’t give out assists or passes.
The redshirt junior suffered a Lisfranc injury, a fracture in the middle of the foot, during a 2014 preseason practice, which forced her to miss the entire 2014-15 season. As the team’s starting point guard for the 2013-14 campaign, Doty averaged 5.1 points per game and 5.6 assists per game.
But even though she sat out, she gave to her team in a different way. Doty gave her teammates confidence.
Because of Doty’s injury, the point guard position went to several other players instead, including Lindsey Cunningham, who saw the most minutes in the position.
Cunningham said Doty often reminded Cunningham of her strengths on the floor. Cunningham, who had limited college playing experience prior to Doty's injury, appreciated the encouragement coming from a fellow point guard.
“It just makes you feel good about yourself and makes you go out there and play a little bit more free,” she said.
Doty’s compliments boosted Cunningham’s confidence, reassured her that her actions on the court were right and soothed her nerves before games.
Doty knows how to uplift people with her words.
She would smile at guard Sierra Michaelis, who always got down on herself, and say, "'We’re playing basketball. That’s what we love to do.'"
When foreward Michelle Hudyn bemoaned making mistakes during games, Doty would encourage her.
“Next play, next play,” Doty told her.
During practice, Doty offered to help Hudyn on ball handling, an area in which the forward strives to improve. She also gave Hudyn specific pointers on how to improve her game, such as reminding her to come to the basket for a dump-off pass for the layup instead of fading away from the basket, as Hudyn liked to do.
Doty was able to learn about the game even when she was unable to play it.
She saw how often players got emotionally overwhelmed on the court, thus hampering their performance.
“Just being able to really step back and take a deep breath,” Doty said as a way to calm down. She adds that it’s crucial to be in a position where one isn’t exhausted and can see the game with a clear mind.
Doty said that the foot injury was an opportunity to improve in different ways. She said she hopes to be, among other things, a better floor general, facilitator, shooter and leader.
Doty received a medical redshirt last season because of her injury and spent about four months on crutches. During rehabilitation, she had to learn how to walk, jog and run again. Doty said this week that she felt good on the court.
"I'm feeling fantastic," she said. "Moving faster than ever, I'm stronger than ever."
Despite starting as point guard in the 2013-14 season, Doty might or might not start this season.
She said being injured was frustrating and hard on her but added that it's sweet to be back.
"It's more of a joy being on the court right now than it ever has been in my life," she said.
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