GVSU junior perseveres through change, injuries

GVL / Emily Frye
Freshman forward Taylor Parmley on Nov. 19th.

GVL / Emily Frye Freshman forward Taylor Parmley on Nov. 19th.

Beau Troutman

Four head coaches in four years, two schools and one major injury.

That’s what redshirt junior Bailey Cairnduff has had to endure in her time as a college basketball player.

Rebounding from so much turnover would be rough for some athletes, but for Cairnduff, rebounding is just what she does.

“When you have something taken away that you’ve had your entire life, it’s really hard,” Cairnduff said. “But I see it totally different now, and it’s a privilege to compete every day. I try not to take any day for granted anymore because it really opened my eyes last year to what it’s like without basketball.”

Cairnduff is back in the starting rotation for the Lakers this year after suffering a knee injury at the beginning of last season, which forced her to take a medical redshirt. She is a welcome addition to an already-strong GVSU squad.

“She’s an active player,” said head coach Mike Williams. “She can make shots. She can make threes, pullups, she’s worked at getting to the rim, she’s just a scorer.”

Cairnduff initially signed with Bowling Green after graduating as Morley Stanwood High School’s all-time leading scorer. In her high school senior season, she led the team to a 28-0 mark and a state title.

BGSU head coach Curt Miler left the school during Cairnduff’s freshman year to take a job as the head coach at Indiana. Jennifer Roos took over for Miller, and Cairnduff says the change during her first year wasn’t the start she wanted to her collegiate career.

“I felt like it was a great fit for me at the time,” she said. “The (coaches) that recruited me, they left right before I went there, so that was kind of a bummer. I ended up just sticking with it, and Bowling Green ended up not being a good fit for me overall.”

Cairnduff transferred to GVSU to be closer to home and had a good connection with former head coach Janel Burgess. After coming to GVSU, Cairnduff says her college career is playing out how she envisioned it.

“I was just talking to my roommates about it actually, that I’m so thankful to be here and surrounded by such great girls and a great coaching staff that cares about us,” Cairnduff said. “I definitely can say it has worked out.”

Cairnduff appeared in all 26 games for the Lakers in her second year in college and first year as a Laker, starting in 21 of those games. She averaged 8.8 points per game with four rebounds per game, and led the team in steals with 24.

Entering her junior season, Cairnduff was to be a key part of a Laker rotation that was expected to be at the top of the GLIAC. However, in a scrimmage against Hope at the beginning of the season, Cairnduff was hit in the left knee, and the cartilage separated from the bone.

The injury was a culmination of the cartilage deteriorating over time. She had micro-fracture knee surgery in January to repair the damage.

“They basically broke my femur, they drilled holes into it so that it caused blood flow to the area, so that it would get scar-tissue in there in place of the cartilage,” Cairnduff said. “It was kind of intense.”

Cairnduff faced a six to eight month recovery period, and a lot of rehabilitation work to go with it. Cairnduff was on crutches for much of the time during recovery, and was forced to patiently wait for the cartilage and scar tissue to grow back.

“I really looked to God in that time,” she said. “It was really hard to watch my team compete and not be able to be out there.”

Cairnduff said her family and friends’ support, as well as her faith helped her stay the course and keep on the road to recovery.

“I was on crutches for six weeks, and my teammates were awesome,” she said. “They just helped me out, gave me rides to places. My roommates would carry my ice bucket up and down the stairs for me. I was surrounded by such great people and family. Family support was a big part of it too.”

Cairnduff specifically named friend and fellow teammate Lindsay Baker with helping her during her recovery, after Baker had her own bad experiences at the University of Toledo prior to transferring to GVSU.

“We became friends really fast,” Baker said. “When (Cairnduff) was going through the struggle with her knee, I was there for her a lot not just because of our friendship, but also because she’s my teammate. I had just come through a tough time at Toledo, and I knew what it felt like to be scared and be uncertain of the future.”

Cairnduff was given the green light for full participation in August. After eight long months of waiting and extra conditioning work, Cairnduff was finally able to say she’s at 100 percent.

“It was such an adrenaline rush when I got to be able to be back on the court,” she said. “I’m still trying to get to be where I used to be, but it’ll come back. It’s just not going to come back all at once.”

During May when Cairnduff was rehabbing her injury, Burgess resigned due to family reasons. In June, GVSU announced the hiring of Williams. Cairnduff admits she held her breath after her first experience at BGSU, but said it’s been a privilege to play under Williams.

“We all love Williams,” she said. “He recruited me in high school when he was at Michigan, and when I was transferring and he was at Davenport. I’ve kind of had a relationship with him for a while, and it was just meant to be that he was my coach someday. We’re very thankful to have him.”

Williams commends Cairnduff for putting in the work to be ready for the beginning of the season and earning a spot in the starting five.

“I think she’s someone that was taking advantage of her opportunities,” he said. “Instead of letting it slip away, she was one that took advantage of it. She put in the time, the energy, and she was disciplined enough to come back from that injury.”

So far this season, Cairnduff is averaging 10.4 points per game and 3.6 rebounds per game, and shooting at a 41.9 percent clip.

Cairnduff’s numbers are strong for a player coming back from a major injury, but Williams wants to see her take a more vocal role now that she’s back and participating with the team.

“I think you see her more engaged, talking more, more confidence,” he said. “When you haven’t played for a year, you lose some of those things, and I think she’s getting it back day by day, especially confidence.”

Five games in, the Lakers still have a long road ahead of them, and much basketball is yet to be played. With every minute and every shot attempt Cairnduff has ahead of her, she doesn’t plan on taking a single one for granted.

“Even if you’re not getting what you think you should or whatever it may be, just take advantage of every opportunity that you do get,” she said. “Be thankful for the time you do get, because some people don’t get to compete or be a student-athlete.”