Blessing in disguise: GV’s Taylor Parmley providing force off the bench after rare injury freshman season

Josh Peick

As an athlete, there is nothing more frustrating than sustaining an injury and not being able to contribute on the court or field. An injury is never considered a blessing, but in a strange way, Taylor Parmley of the Grand Valley State women’s basketball team may have received a blessing when she sustained a season-ending injury her freshman year.

Parmley, now a redshirt sophomore, is averaging 7.8 points per game as the team’s ‘sixth man’ or first player off the bench. Last season, she also played an integral role in the Lakers’ Final Four run, posting a double-double in the Elite Eight against Pittsburgh State.

But before she showed off her scoring prowess at the collegiate level, Parmley sat out her entire freshman season due to a shoulder injury. She injured her shoulder two weeks before the season began and was cleared to play the day after the season ended. Unfortunate timing, but at the same time it helped Parmley learn the college-level game before ever stepping on the court.

“It’s funny,” said GVSU assistant coach Phil Sayers. “I think we had thought that she would play (her freshman year), and I told numerous people that was the best thing to happen to Taylor Parmley.”

Parmley, a scoring force when she is on the court, learned how to be an asset to the team with her voice and mentality rather than her physical contributions.

“I think it made me a lot better of a communicator on the floor and I was able to lead with my voice that year rather than my actions,” Parmley said. “I think I’m a better person for it.”

The only thing stranger than her injury being considered a blessing is the circumstances which led to Parmley’s injury.

Parmley sustained an injury called Honeymoon Palsy, which refers to a compression neuropathy in the arm. This symptom is the result of applying pressure on the arm in an awkward position for an extended period of time, eventually cutting a nerve in the arm. In Parmley’s case, which is the most common occurrence, it happened while she was sleeping.

“I woke up and I had a lot of pain in my shoulder,” Parmley said. “I gave it a couple of days and went back to practice. I went to do a pushup, and my arm just gave out.”

After an entire season of rehab, Parmley returned the next season to play in all 36 games and lead the team with a .526 shooting percentage from the field. This season, she is shooting .549 from the field in 12 games played.

“She gives us that confidence because when she’s on that floor, she believes that she’s going to make a play,” said senior Kayla Dawson. “She definitely brings the presence in the paint that our starting five does not have as much.”

The Lakers have a versatile starting five. Each player can drive to the basket and shoot from the perimeter, but none of them are a true low-block, post player. That is where Parmley fits that role off the bench.

“We do her a disservice by listing her at 5’10” when really she is 5’8”,” Sayers said. “She’s flat out tough, and she’s a kid that she’s either going to score or get fouled.”

When Parmley touches the ball on the low block, 68 percent of the time she scores or draws a foul. She provides the Lakers with instant offense when they can get the ball to her near the basket.

Her scoring ability is no secret, and it never was. As a sophomore at Mishawaka High School in Indiana, Parmley dropped 51 points in a single game, while still missing nine free throws.

Free throws have always been a minor weakness in Parmley’s game, but she drastically improved her free throw shooting in the offseason and now shoots 80 percent from the line this season.

“Free throws are all a mental game and it’s just a confidence thing,” Parmley said. “Last year, I always joked around a lot and I was like ‘I’m not the best free throw shooter,’ but this year I decided that I am going to be one of the best.”

Her pure scoring ability is invaluable to the team. When she missed four games with an ankle injury this season, the offense was visibly missing a presence on the low block.

“We were missing that kid that could just go down (to the low block) and get a bucket for us,” Sayers said. “In the Hillsdale game, (they) took away our shooters and we had nobody down low that wanted to go score.”

The Lakers missed her presence down low, but Parmley fought her way back to playing form and has contributed every game since her return.

“Our players respect (her) because they know what she’s been through from an injury stand point and how hard she works and how tough she is,” Sayers said. “It’s an emotional lift when she does get to play.”

Since Parmley’s return, the Lakers are 7-2 and currently hold to the second spot in the GLIAC North Division.

Now, after sitting out her entire first season, the payout of Parmley learning the game and becoming acclimated with college-level basketball is paying dividends for the Lakers.

“A freak thing absolutely,” Sayers said, “but I also think, and she’ll tell you, when she looks back it was an absolute blessing that it happened to her.”