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‘I basically had to learn to walk again’: Hobbs uses support system to will way back to court

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Jaden Hobbs

2016-17 Winter Sports Media Day

When his daughter fell onto the court and didn’t immediately return to her feet, Dale Hobbs said he knew something was seriously wrong.

A redshirt freshman from Alva, Jaden Hobbs, playing in her first game in an Oklahoma State women’s basketball uniform, drove to the basket late in the fourth quarter against Southeastern Oklahoma State on Oct. 30, 2016. She landed awkwardly, and the crowd, including her family and friends, became silent.

Instantly, Hobbs, in immense pain, clutched her left knee.

“I knew she was hurt,” Dale said. “I knew she was hurt bad.”

After a diagnosis, the initial assessments were unfortunately correct. Hobbs completely tore her anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, and meniscus in her left knee. Before the regular season started, the year was over for Hobbs.

She had her ACL replaced, but her meniscus was stitched back together.

After rushing out to her, the training staff helped Hobbs to the locker room. Despite saying she never had a serious injury or had an ankle sprain, Hobbs said she knew what happened.

“I felt it," Hobbs said. “I heard it.”

OSU coach Jim Littell and Jentry Holt, then a sophomore, said they each felt as if they knew what happened, too. Holt said no one wanted to believe it. She said many people in attendance had the same reaction when Hobbs dribbled in to score and fell down hard.

“The whole crowd gasped,” Holt said.

Hobbs had high school coaches and teammates there, as well.

Jordan Shiever, a high school teammate, echoed Dale, saying Hobbs usually immediately hopped up for a minor injury.

When she didn’t get back up, mindsets changed from happy to heartbroken. She said everyone prayed and hoped for the best.

“We were all very silent and concerned,” Shiever said

Although he said it was a devastating blow to the team, Littell said he felt extremely sorry for Hobbs. He said for Hobbs, who is a true competitor, to miss the season had to be difficult.

“It was a sad day,” Littell said. “You hate (that) for somebody who is such a great kid like Jaden Hobbs. You hate for it to happen to anybody.”

After 8 months of rehabilitation, Hobbs was cleared. She made her return to Gallagher-Iba Arena three months later.

In front of almost all her family and friends, Hobbs again stepped onto the court for an exhibition game Oct. 27. Nearly 1 year after her injury, she played in Stillwater against East Central.

Dale said it brought back memories of the injury. But, as Hobbs got comfortable, so did Dale.

Late in the fourth quarter, Hobbs seemingly got her swagger back. She hit a bank 3-pointer as the shot clocked sounded. The crowded erupted in joy.

“I didn’t call glass, but it was open,” Hobbs said, “So, whatever; a bucket is a bucket.”

All she could do was smile. The journey back was challenging though, she said.

Surgery, starting rehabilitation and the support team

With surgery and rehabilitation coming, Hobbs said her faith helped push her through things.

“You just have to realize, God has a plan and he has a specific plan for you,” Hobbs said. “That is what I had to keep reminding myself through the whole time. To stay positive and keeping remembering he has a plan for me.”

For Hobbs, scheduling appointments and getting on the road to recovery was a quick process.

She met Kim Duskin, an OSU women’s basketball athletic trainer, after suffering the injury and Val Gene Iven, the head team physician, moments after. Hobbs had an MRI, the next day, which confirmed the suspicion for the injury.

Hobbs had surgery a few weeks later on Nov. 17 at McBride Orthopedic Hospital in Oklahoma City with Matt Dumigan. She said she remembers it as if it were yesterday, driving down and the emotions she had.

Dale said nerves hit him, watching one of his two daughters go into surgery. He said he would have done anything for Hobbs to not have the operation.

“I would trade places,” Dale said. “As a parent, you want to just trade places with them. Any time something like that happens, it is nerve-wracking.”

After leaving the hospital, Hobbs and her parents checked into a hotel nearby for the week. They stayed with Hobbs to take care of her and bring her to Gallagher-Iba Arena for physical therapy sessions with Duskin.

After winning against Loyola Marymount that night, the Cowgirls decided to surprise Hobbs in her hotel room. Hobbs had no idea her team would all come at once with goodies.

“A lot of times in situations like that, words don’t make it better,” Holt said. “So, you just try to do that little things you can to help. A lot of people say there are a family, but we really are here. We generally care about each other.

“That is not only our teammate that got hurt, it is our friend. We wanted to be there for her.”

Still heartbroken from the injury and surgery, Hobbs said her teammates and family lifted her spirits. She said she realized they had her back through anything.

The first week after a major knee surgery is the hardest. Dale said he and Lea Ann Hobbs knew how difficult it would be, but they were in Stillwater to help and make things easier.

“We helped her in and out of bed,” Dale said. “We waited on her hand and foot. We did what we had to do to. ... We just managed it. We take care of her; that is what mommas and dads do.”

Hobbs said some of the smallest and most simple things were the toughest, especially being non-weight bearing, including taking a shower and going to the bathroom, but mainly sleeping.

“It was really hard for me to sleep for probably the three months, I think,” Hobbs said. “I never got a full night of rest.”

After a few days of rest after surgery, Hobbs started her physical therapy and journey to making it back to playing at Gallagher-Iba Arena. She said she went every day but Sunday, and the sessions lasted two or three hours.

Hobbs started with extension and flexibility training. She said throughout the early stages of physical therapy, her knee was extremely weak.

“It was awful,” Hobbs said. “Even after the first month, my leg was Jell-O. I couldn’t flex my quad; I couldn’t do much of anything. It took a long time for me to gain all my muscle back.”

She said through physical therapy she had to relearn the most natural thing, other than breathing.

“After the first month, I basically had to learn to walk again,” Hobbs said. “I didn’t really know how; I was non-weight bearing for a month.”

For that, Hobbs moved into the pool for hydrotherapy to walk under water.

During rehabilitation process, Hobbs said she felt useless.

She shot free throws to ease her mind.

Completing the comeback

Hobbs said after moving back into her apartment, her roommate, Holt, always did the little things for her, including helping her around the house and campus. Holt said she realized it isn’t fun to use crutches to get everywhere, so she decided to help Hobbs get to places the easier.

“(I did) anything she needed, I tried to be the helpful roommate,” Holt said.

By mid-February, Hobbs was able to jog in the pool for the first time. As mid-March rolled around, Hobbs jogged on a treadmill. Her progression held steady throughout, and each exercise continued to lead to the next.

About five months and six months in, Hobbs did jumping exercises, including little cone jumps over and over. After that, Hobbs started doing more jumping and running exercises. She slowly made her way back on the court for limited participation in practice.

Hobbs was cleared a few days before the Cowgirls started practicing July 30 in preparation for their trip to Australia. She said the process was a grueling eight months, but she was relieved to be back.

She said she was happy to knock off the rust with a couple of games in Australia.

Three months later, Hobbs finished with 10 points and three assists against East Central. She was one assist shy of equaling her production from the exhibition game in 2016.

However, she knew she had more work to do, getting conditioning and confidence back is vital.

Hobbs said her injury experience will ultimately help her. Many involved with the program said she has a bright future.

Through four regular-season games, Hobbs has averaged 8.3 points, which is tied for third on the team, 2.5 assists, 1.3 rebounds and .75 steals per game.

She has also shot 56 percent from the 3-point line, which is her specialty on offense.

Littell argeed, saying Hobbs is a special talent.

“Jaden is getting better every day, but Jaden is not, and she will tell you that, too, is still not where she wants to be or knows she can be,” Littell said. “… I say this about Jaden Hobbs, ‘Every time she shoots the ball, I think it is going in.’ And that is a great feeling to have out of a young lady.

“She is going to be a good player; I recruited her hard. There is a reason she was Oklahoma Player of the Year and there is a reason she won three state championships in a row; because she is a winner.

Hobbs said she is motivated to do well not only for herself but also her family, coaches and teammates.

Although Dale said he can’t wait to see how this season goes, he said he will be happy with Hobbs no matter what she does.

“She has accomplished so much so far in her lifetime,” Dale said. “Everything from here on out is a bonus to us. I want her to play for the joy of playing… I hope she can live up to everyone’s expectations.

“She has already lived up to mine.”

sports@ocolly.com