A step at a time for SMU standout

Black Hills grad Haskey is top scorer, rebounder for Saints despite playing on a pair of painful ankles

mwochnick@theolympian.comJanuary 30, 2013 

LACEY — Ending her college basketball career has crossed Chelsea Haskey’s mind more than once.

What could keep the Saint Martin’s University junior — the team’s leading scorer who is ranked in the top 10 in scoring and rebounding in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference — away from the game?

It’s not burnout. It’s not unhappiness.

It’s her health.

Haskey, who is averaging a team-best 14.4 points and 6.9 rebounds for the surging Saints, has endured three ankle surgeries, most recently in August.

Is it worth it? She says it is. The adrenaline of a game, she says, gets her through the pain.

“That atmosphere – you get into it and you don’t notice” the pain, said Haskey, a 2010 graduate of Black Hills High School.

“I think it helped me realize how much basketball means to me, and to work through that.”

It’s hard to tell there’s anything wrong with Haskey until she slips off her sneakers and ankle braces for the comfort of ice bags. She has a condition called tarsal coalition – two or more bones in the foot are joined together – which causes pain and weakness in her ankles.

Two surgeries have helped correct the problem. A third surgery, not related to tarsal coalition, came in August because of bone spurs in her left ankle.

The training room inside Marcus Pavilion is like a second home, she said, because of her visits there before each practice and home game. She’s also grateful for the recent addition of freezers in the on-campus residence hall she lives in.

“I finally have ice packs in there

to ice my feet,” she said.

Early in her high school career, Haskey complained of pain and sought out doctors and specialists. One doctor suggested she give up basketball.

Saints coach Tim Healy knew of Haskey’s ankles problems, but that didn’t prevent him from recruiting the 6-foot-1 forward. He lets her judge how much she can do – or can’t do – in practices and sometimes allows her to substitute push-ups or sit-ups for running during conditioning drills.

So far, she has stayed healthy. Haskey is the only Saints player to start all 19 games going into this weekend.

Haskey has elevated her game and broadened her shooting range. Her 46 percent shooting from the field is fifth-best in conference.

She’s no longer just a 15-foot-and-in player; she’s comfortable stepping out and taking a 3-pointer. This season, she has made 40 percent of her 3s – 12 of 30. That’s a drastic change from her two attempts during her four-year high school career.

Healy says he wants all of his post players to shoot from 3-point range, and he credits the weight room for her added range.

“From Day 1, it’s something we’ve worked on with her, and now she’s getting to a spot where she’s comfortable with it,” Healy said. “She shoots a high percentage.”

The Saints (11-8 overall, 4-5 GNAC) are in a three-way tie for fifth place with Seattle Pacific and Alaska-Anchorage, which defeated the Saints, 48-45, on Saturday. The top six teams make the GNAC tournament in March, hosted by Saint Martin’s.

The team has already surpassed last year’s win total of nine. The turning point came after an 18-point home loss to Montana State-Billings.

A players-only meeting took place the following day, and the next night the Saints upset then-GNAC co-leader SPU, 70-66, which started a streak of four wins in the past six games.

“Our whole team woke up and we said, ‘Hey, we can beat these teams and do well in this conference,’” Haskey said.

Said Healy: “It’s amazing what confidence and the right attitude will do.”

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 mwochnick@theolympian.com theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick

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