GVSU’s Watson fights to stay on the court

GVL / Robert Mathews
Kellie Watson

GVL / Robert Mathews Kellie Watson

Tate Baker

The common fan may not be able to fathom the sacrifices an athlete makes throughout his or her career. As spectators, we may not know what it’s like to have our careers suddenly jeopardized with one awkward fall, or one collision.

For many athletes, it’s how you respond after the injury. Going through the physical battles is one thing, but taking on the mental aspect of recovering and getting back to full strength is a completely different fight. For Grand Valley State University women’s basketball senior forward Kellie Watson, her battle to get back on the court began nearly four years ago.

“It has not been an easy road,” Watson. “It’s just one of those things where you know you can’t give up.”

Before countless shoulder surgeries to repair her battered shoulders, and another surgery to mend a torn knee, Watson was named Miss Basketball in 2007-2008 while she played at Ionia High School, and was a key piece for perennial Division I power University of Notre Dame.

She appeared in all 31 games as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. Watson finished second on the team with 28 three-pointers and was named Big East Freshman of the Week on two occasions.

After her injuries, she had to make the tough decision of transferring to a smaller school and leaving the life she once started in South Bend. Watson would sit out the 2009-2010 season due to transfer rules and would be redshirted for the 2010-2011 season.

Fast-forward four years later and Watson is now a key piece for the Lakers, and in comparison, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation.

“I used to battle with thinking the ‘what if’ in my head all the time,” Watson said. “It’s been tough, especially with all the success that Notre Dame has had. Overall, I don’t regret my decision at all and I’m truly happy that I ended up at Grand Valley.”

Amidst all of her injuries, Watson has continued to fight to keep playing the game that she loves. She sets a example of not giving up on something that’s worth fighting for.

“Kellie has had every challenge you could have thrown at her since her sophomore year in high school,” said head coach Janel Burgess. “When injury after injury mounts, it’s kind of easy to say, ‘Hey, it’s just not worth it,’ and I think Kelly has done a good job of battling through that to get to where she is today.”

For Watson, her determination to get back onto the court was met with the realization that she may have to make some sacrifices in order to get back to basketball.

“I couldn’t let my body win,” Watson said. “I had a lot of goals, dreams and ambitions that I didn’t make, but I’ve never once been ready to give up completely.”

Now, Watson spends a great deal of time in the training room rehabbing and conditioning her body in order to still be effective for the Lakers. Watson is currently averaging 6.7 points and 2.6 rebounds per game for GVSU this season.

“She’s in the training room every day doing rehab for her shoulders, ankle, heel, whatever is bothering her,” said senior Breanna Kellogg. “She’s in there trying to get better for herself because she knows we need her to win.”

As Watson will soon finish up her college career at GVSU, she will always be an example of not giving up when the odds are against you and to keep persevering. After all, it’s all for the love of the game.
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