Nov. 20, 2009
A Lesson in Perserverance
Gentry Dietz's basketball path has been anything but smooth. In fact, you'd need an all-terrain vehicle to navigate through it. It has had its fair share of trials and hardships, but it's had its high points as well. From a college freshman who made a defensive stop against a high school teammate she idolized, to seal a victory. To last Sunday's 25-point debut in a Bearcat uniform, Dietz has had many emotions.
A native of Omaha, Neb., Dietz began her college career at Southern Illinois, eight-and-a-half hours from home.
"It was hard at times to be that far away especially when you have to put in so many hours in being a Division I player," said Dietz.
Dietz didn't have the best relationship with her coach at Southern Illinois and apparently she wasn't alone. In three years 12 basketball players left the Southern Illinois team.
"At one point she had me hating basketball and I didn't want to do it anymore, so I went home for a semester and didn't do anything," said Dietz.
That's when Northwest women's basketball graduate assistant Katie O'Grady, who was the student assistant at the time, told Head Coach Gene Steinmeyer about Gentry.
"When I came on my visit coach asked me just to stay here for a semester and see if I liked it here and see how things go. I've stayed ever since."
In the fall of 2008 Dietz was happy again, and healthy for the first time in two seasons. Dietz had broken her metatarsal halfway through her freshman season at Southern Illinois and then cracked her patella during her sophomore year. However, the injury bug would strike Dietz again, this time even harder. On the last day of individual work-outs, in the final five minutes of practice Dietz tore her ACL.
"Coach Steinmeyer said he completely understood if I wanted to hang it up, and told me he'd let me keep my scholarship even if I quit basketball because he knew all that I had been through," said Dietz."I couldn't just leave coach hanging like that. He had let me keep my scholarship for a year-and-a-half, even when I wasn't able to play. I also wanted to see if I could play again and see if I could end everything on good terms with the game that I loved."
Dietz decided to rehab and mount a comeback because of coach Steinmeyer and the team. Dietz felt tied to the team and wanted to come back and see if she could help it out in anyway. However, that's not the real reason why she decided to come back.
Dietz draws inspiration from her grandmother, who has been fighting cancer since the age of 18 and has had numerous surgeries to help battle it and is in daily pain.
"My grandma has always been there for me," said Dietz. "No matter what it is that I need she's always there to help me out. She is one of the most important people in my life. If she can get through cancer for all of these years, than I can get through this. She is definitely my biggest inspiration and what drives me. To see what she has to go through on a daily basis, and the pain she has been in forever, then having to come back from injury isn't hard for me."
Coming back from an ACL injury isn't any picnic. After surgery Dietz had to work out and lift daily to get her knee back to full strength. Dietz did a lot of weight training and stabilization of her knee. There were a lot of lunges and jumps. Pool therapy exercises were also very common for Dietz's rehab.
"It was not fun," said Dietz. "I wouldn't wish an ACL tear and rehab on my worst enemy."
Dietz also credits Head Athletic Trainer Kelly Quinlin with helping in her road back.
"She basically became my best friend last year and was always pushing me and there for me during my rehab," said Dietz. "She would say things like 'We need you Gentry, you can come back and you can come back better than ever.' "She kept pushing me and pushing me everyday."
Last Sunday, after a long journey and almost two years off the court, Dietz finally returned and didn't disappoint. Dietz led all scorers with 25 points in Northwest Missouri State's 75-64 victory over Upper Iowa. Dietz also led the team with eight rebounds and had two blocks. Dietz is most proud though, of the two charges that she took in the game, the first of her career.
"I'm still my own worst critic and I'm just trying to get my game back to where it used to be," said Dietz. "I'm not 100-percent yet but just to get back out on the floor is big for me. To be honest I was terrified before the game started, but eventually I just let the game come to me and got comfortable. I know if I can get through this, than I can get through anything."
Dietz knows that in the end she has made the right decision.
"I don't regret it at all. In a way I'm not upset that it happened the way it did. It's definitely made me a stronger person and a better person. I'm glad that I didn't give it up because if I had, it would have always been in the back of my mind, and all of the "what if's" would have been there. You only get one chance to play college ball and if it would have ended on a bad note for me I would have wondered what I could have done. Now I'll know."
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