For South Carroll's Spencer, it's time to play again

December 06, 1993|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

Nicole Spencer never lost that spark in her eye no matter how tough the knee rehabilitation got last spring and summer.

The South Carroll junior standout wanted to believe she would play basketball again and play it well. At least she had history on her side in her battle against a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Twenty-six years ago, her father, Dave Spencer, went down with the same knee injury in a game for Mount Airy High against Waynesboro, Pa.

A strong 6-foot-5 junior at the time, he came back to have an outstanding senior season as a scorer (15.5 points a game) and rebounder (17.0 per game).

Those stats are impressive, but Dave and his wife, Cathy, have spent a lot of time reassuring their daughter in the long months after her injury.

Cathy Spencer said: "It's a lot of deep thinking. Nicole keeps asking us, 'Am I really going to be OK? Will I be able to play like I did before?' If she just gets her head straightened out, everything will be fine."

Nicole Spencer does have a head start on duplicating her father's performance. She proved her knee was sound by coming back in time for the volleyball season and making the all-county first team.

The doctors had told her she would not make it back until this basketball season. But Spencer fooled them with what she called "an obedient following of all the exercises during six months of rehabilitation."

Now the 5-10 center is eager to go out on the basketball court and pick up where she left off after 10 games of her sophomore season, when the injury occurred.

Spencer was averaging 13.0 points and 9.0 rebounds before she got bumped on a layup in a game against Westminster and the knee "popped" when she came down on the floor.

She was told immediately that it was a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and fears about her basketball future went momentarily through her head.

Three weeks later, Spencer underwent surgery and began the long trip back to the Cavaliers' lineup.

"I feel fine," she said. "Hopefully I can come back and start at the level I left off at. I'm definitely in a positive frame of mind. My mom and dad have helped me a lot with that. Of course, Dad coming back the way he did has meant a lot."

Just her presence in the middle has made South Carroll a preseason favorite to replace North Carroll as the county girls basketball champion.

And Spencer enters the season billed as the player to watch in the county.

"I'd say Nicole has a good chance to be the best player in the county," said South Carroll coach Al Skierski. "She's been working incredibly hard all summer, riding a bike, jogging and lifting weights. Sure, she thinks about the knee on certain days. But mostly she is confident, and we're a lot more confident having her on the floor with us."

Skierski said Spencer is such a strong offensive threat because of her ability to get second and third shots.

"She's a pretty accomplished offensive player," he said. "Now I hope she improves her defense and rebounding."

If hard work has anything to do with it, the talented junior will get the job done.

"I've learned that I have to work hard at all times in practice," said Spencer. "In seasons before, I would slack off and go half-speed in practice."

And remember, Dave Spencer is around to remind his daughter if she slows up.

"My dad comes to all the games," said Nicole Spencer. "He coaches me a lot. I like him being at games. He tells me exactly what I did wrong and what I did good."

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