Two tears of her anterior cruciate ligament, three surgeries, and two years of being forced to watch the Arizona State women’s basketball squad from the bench.
For Jill Noe, all that heartache will add up to one giant dose of redemption when she takes the floor for the Sun Devils in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday.
“It will be a big thrill,” said Noe, a junior. “Last year at the NCAAs, I could just watch. Now, I’ll be a part of it.”
After missing the last two seasons due to two tears of the ACL in her left knee in the space of eight months, Noe returned this season and resumed giving ASU lightning-quick play from her guard spot.
Noe is averaging 8.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 30 games this year (27 starts).
“Physically, she’s where she was before the injuries,” coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “Overall, she’s better because she used her time on the bench to learn more about the game, and the people around her now are better than when she was a freshman. . . .
“I promise you, she will make the most of her opportunity (on Saturday).”
With a brutal injury to overcome — twice — and a lot of time to think during the previous two seasons, negative thoughts could have easily filled Noe’s head. However, she had no doubt that she would return to help the Sun Devils reach the NCAA tournament.
“Not playing again was not an option for me,” said Noe, who has a team-high 28 3-pointers this season. “I didn’t want to think about what-ifs. I just wanted to get back.”
While many of the ASU players have the experience of playing in last year’s NCAAs — when it advanced to the Sweet 16 — Turner Thorne has six newcomers to her team.
However, she said last week’s Pac-10 tournament was an ideal warm-up, on and off the court.
“They handle things the same way there, from on-court times and other things our players go through at the NCAAs,” Turner Thorne said. “That was a good experience for us.”
It is often said that postseason basketball places good inside play at a premium, which would make the role of senior forward Kristen Kovesdy — ASU’s leader in scoring (12.5) and rebounding (6.5) average — even more important.
But Kovesdy said that opponents of the Sun Devils should be prepared to defend the entire package.
“To me, this is when our entire team steps up,” said Kovesdy, who leads the Pac-10 in field-goal percentage (.600). “And that’s the best thing, that we have a lot of players who have done it in big games.”
Stephen F. Austin vs. Arizona State
What: NCAA women’s basketball tournament; Albuquerque Region first-round game
When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: McKale Center; Tucson TV: ESPN2
Radio: KXAM (1310 AM)
Seeds/records: No. 4 ASU 24-6; No. 13 Stephen F. Austin 23-7