TERRE HAUTE —
As Indiana State takes the floor for tonight’s only women’s basketball exhibition game, fans will welcome several new Sycamores into Hulman Center.
They’ll also welcome the return of sophomore Jessica Valley, who spent her entire offseason rehabbing from reconstructive knee surgery. She went under the knife in February and tonight’s game against Bellarmine is less than nine months from her surgery date.
Coach Teri Moren praised Valley’s dedication that saw her return to the basketball court ahead of schedule. Valley has had few issues since practice began last month.
Dilligence with her rehab program during the summer has paid off in the recent weeks.
“I had the option to stay here this summer and so I did just to get my knee back to 100 percent,” Valley said. “On my good days I get to 100 percent, but I still have days where I get to 90 or 85. It’s just mental right now. I’m mentally just preparing myself for the season.”
With three 1,000-point scorers graduating from the roster, Valley knew more playing time would be up for grabs this season.
Moren was impressed by her young player, a former Indiana All-Star out of McCutcheon High School in Lafayette.
“I think Valley, it says a lot about her character, her determination. She committed herself to staying here the entire summer. Most kids want to get away from her, and be with their friends and family,” Moren said. “It says how serious she is — whether it’s as a starter or coming off the bench — she wants her team to be successful and she wants to be a part of that.”
Valley likes the upbeat attitude she sees from the players and new coaching staff, and she’s definitely been a part of that.
“It’s totally different. It’s very exciting. I just try and give each one of my teammates encouragement every day,” Valley said. “I just look to get the people the ball like Anna and ‘T’ [Taylor Whitley] who can shoot it. I just try to play hard defense.”
Valley was forced to play out of position in 2011-12, spending a majority of her minutes at point guard when Whitley missed a big chunk of the season due to her own knee injury. The 5-foot-9 guard should be more at home on the wing this season.
“It’s been a different experience,” Valley said. “I’ve grown into it I think. I would say I’m pretty comfortable right now. There’s still a lot of improvement I can do. But knowing that Deja [Mattox] worked it pretty well, and looking at the film for her, it’s a different opportunity I can provide for the offense.”
Assuming she can regain the explosive first step she had prior to the knee injury, Valley could be a nightmare matchup for many post players on the Sycamores’ schedule.
“She should be able to play her natural position, as a 2-3 guard, with probably a little bit more time at the 4,” Moren said. “Like I said, she’s really flourished in that spot, probably more than she has on the perimeter, just because of her length and her ability to put it on the floor and attack the glass.”