Oklahoma senior Whitney Hand still struggles with the why of her second ACL tear, which ended her college basketball career in December.
“I think every day you battle it, honestly,” Hand said. “I think every day you wake up and think, ‘Gosh dangit. This is happening. This is real life, not a nightmare.'
“But injuries happen. ... It's not an attack against anyone, it just happens. You have to own that, or you're not gonna survive it.”
Hand will watch what should've been the final regular-season Bedlam game of her career from the bench Saturday, when her teammates meet Oklahoma State inside Gallagher-Iba Arena at 2 p.m.
Hand tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee five games into the 2009-10 season, requiring a 401-day rehabilitation. Then in Oklahoma's ninth game this season, she tore her other ACL.
Hand completes her master's degree in May, and said she has no idea where her career will take her. Some of that, of course, depends on where her husband Landry Jones' NFL career leads them.
“I want to pursue nutrition eventually, but I'm kinda wanting to do some broadcasting right now, just to see if I like it,” Hand said. “So we'll see. I don't know where it's gonna go.”
Hand spoke with The Oklahoman about Bedlam, her rehabilitation and her role with the team this season.
This would've been your last Bedlam game; will it be tough to watch at all?
“Not any tougher than any other game. Every game kinda stinks, honestly, just knowing that you should be playing and you can't.
“I think I'd rather be in this game than in another game, just because it's so fun. You look forward to it. I'm excited for the girls.”
How is rehabbing your ACL this time different than your last one?
“The goals are different. When you're recovering back for basketball, there's a lot of cutting involved. You've gotta train your muscles to think like that. For a normal human, it's not quite as extensive. You work back to jogging, and throughout your life you recover all those senses in your muscles. It's not as immediate, where you have to have those right away.
“I think it just feels different for me as a person. There's not that extra motivation that you had, all the girls, yourself, and all that stuff. But I want to be active the rest of my life, so I feel like rehabbing's not a problem.”
Last time, you became an extra coach on the bench. Has your role been similar this time?
“It isn't the same. I think a lot of what I did last time was for my benefit, honestly. Not really for the girls; I think they were fine without me.
“I think coach really wanted me involved for my benefit so I could improve while I wasn't playing. This year it's a little different. I feel like I'm in more of an encouragement role.”