SUNDAY, JANUARY 15, 2012
Power to the Peeples
Bri Peeples (1) is averaging 9.8 points this season and had a team-high 19 Saturday. Play Video
Bri Peeples (1) is averaging 9.8 points this season and had a team-high 19 Saturday.
Bri Peeples can tell you a little about surgery, about the fight after surgery and the fight to turn your attitude around. She has lived it.

Peeples, one of the JU women’s basketball team’s shooting guards, went to the bottom of her sports life’s depths and has rebounded to the point she now sees a huge positive out of her travails.

Her world unraveled on Dec. 26, 2009, when toward the end of practice she went up for a simple layup, something she had done hundreds, if not thousands, of times before.

“I guess I came down wrong,’’ she said. “Immediately I knew I had torn something or done something wrong because I couldn’t walk and it swelled up. I was screaming everybody’s name except the coaches.’’

Something was wrong alright. Her right knee was toast and the diagnosis was it needed to be reconstructed.

And so it was. On Feb. 12, 2010, she went to the Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute and had her surgery. Her season was done and she was laid up doing tough rehab until the summer of 2010.

“I started running and was getting into the gist of things and I was going to be ready to go (into the 2010-11 season),’’ she said.

The plan was for Peeples, from Americus, Ga. (yes, she has met former president Jimmy Carter who is from nearby Plains), to go easy as the season started.

“I didn’t play in any games because the coaches didn’t want me to get hurt again,’’ she said. Finally, in January of 2011, she got to play against Mercer.

One game.

“I got in the game, shot a three, came down and shot another three, and at the end of the game we had a chance to shoot another three,’’ the accounting major recalled. “I ran down and shot the three and after that we had to run in and I couldn’t run.’’

The same knee gave way and a small tear of her meniscus led to another end of season and another lay off. When she was able to come back she went through 12 tough weeks of training to get ready for this season.

Now, she still rehabs her right leg because the quadriceps isn’t as strong as she'd like and she feels as though if she stops rehabbing the muscle will go weak. She plays with a sturdy brace protecting the knee and has played with a vengeance inspired by a new perspective on the game.

She’s played most of the season as first in off the bench and is averaging almost 10 points a game. That includes a team-high 19 points Saturday in a win against East Tennessee.

“She definitely is one of our go-to players,’’ head coach Jill Dunn said. “She’s good enough to be a starter; she’s just more comfortable coming off the bench. It helps our team being a spark off the bench so that’s the role she’s in. If the game is in a close situation, the ball will be in her hands.’’

“I hadn’t played in two years so my first instinct is I want to play basketball and my second instinct is I want to win and my third instinct is this can’t bother me,’’ Peeples said. The only problem is when it’s cold outside my knee hurts and after every practice I have to get ice or it will be sore.’’

She’s come far enough that the low points of the last couple of years – those rough hours of rehab and the thoughts she may never play again - are rapidly disappearing in her rear-view mirror.

In fact, she now is using her knee and its brace as a decoy against opponents.

“I step on the court and I hear other players say ‘oh, she’s got on a brace, take her’ or ‘I’m guarding her because she’s got a brace’ so I use it as a decoy.’’

The most important thing she has taken from the experience is to learn how to take a setback and turn it into a positive.

“She’s matured a lot and has grown every year she’s been here,’’ Dunn said. “She’s has a lot of obstacles with her knee injury that she’s had to fight through. She’s had to mature through this process. Every year her attitude has gotten a little bit better, she’s worked a little bit harder and I think that’s a huge difference from when she got here.’’

“It hasn’t been easy,’’ Peeples said. “I gained like 40 pounds and lost all that weight and it took me every bit of my 12 weeks of work to lose it. At first, all I did was look at the negative before I thought about the positive. The positive out of this is I get an extra year to play (she was redshirted) and I’m going to be finished with my masters. I got an extra year to help further my education. What I’d tell somebody going through an injury is don’t look at it like it’s your last opportunity. Sometimes injuries can lead to a better situation. I feel like mine helped me grow as a person.’’

- Jim Nasella