AUSTIN, TX (FR) – When University of Texas women’s basketball star Clarissa Davis was injured on the court in late 1987, the athletic community assumed that her career was finished. “Tuesday night, the best player in women’s college basketball became the latest Lady Longhorn to have her dreams collapse in a heap,” wrote one columnist for the Austin American Statesman. “A lot of hopes went down with her.”
The sports page reports on the day after her injury certainly sounded hopeless. A medical illustration accompanied one news article which detailed the serious tears in Clarissa’s knee ligaments. An orthopedic surgeon explained that she would most definitely be off the court for at least a year.
Head Coach Jody Conradt was visibly upset by the ordeal that occurred that night in Miami’s Knight Center. “I haven’t had too many disappointments in coaching,” Conradt told reporters,“but when you see people lose something they love so much and are so good at, the normal question arises. Is it worth it? I don’t know.”
But Clarissa Davis is a unique lady in several ways … and has surprised not only the athletic community in Austin but the medical community as well. She is now experiencing a recovery which she calls “miraculous” and is also preparing for the Olympic Trials in Colorado Springs. “I haven’t even been playing and the Olympic Committee invited me to try out – that’s pretty good!” she said enthusiastically. After her injury in December, an Austin sports reporter predicted that the torn ligaments would knock her out of a chance at going to Seoul this summer.
Davis’ supposed last game occurred during the Orange Bowl/Burger King Classic against Rutgers University, when she fell after an interception. “Thirty days after the surgery I walked,” said Davis, “and I wasn’t supposed to play for a year.” By her third month, she was running, shooting, and beginning to do some cutting. “The doctors don’t know how to handle it, because I’m already doing things that I’m not supposed to be doing,” she added.
Coach Conradt thought she had lost her top player. Davis has been described as “unquestionably the best player in women’s basketball today,” and was last season’s winner of the Naismith Award – the top honor in women’s basketball. Her injury rocked the women’s athletic world, and drew sympathetic comments from many of her opponents. Iowa Coach Vivian Stringer was quoted as saying, “I’ve never been so hurt in seeing an athlete get hurt. It’s sickening. We need her – I’m just heartbroken.”
But Conradt is now encouraged about Davis’ quick recovery. “She’s been doing very well in developing and progress,” she said. “Its been better than anyone I’ve seen recovering from a serious injury. She’s far ahead of schedule than the norm.”
Those people who know Clarissa Davis intimately, however, are not really surprised by her fast progress. Davis is an outspoken Christian, and a member of the Maranatha Campus Ministry at the University of Texas. On the evening of the injury, while waiting with her teammates to go to the hospital, she signed autographs for her fans. On each piece of paper she wrote, “Honor Him Always, John 3:16.”
While recovering from surgery, she received 200 to 300 letters from fans and a tape made by a KLBJ-AM talk show host, which contained an hour’s worth of get well messages called in by listeners. According to the host, Paul Pryor, about 80 percent of the callers mentioned Davis’ Christian faith and offered encouragement to her that faith would pull her through the difficult times ahead.
She attributes her speedy recovery to her faith in God. “I told people that I really believed God was going to heal me and they would say,‘you’re thinking positive,’ or ‘you have a good attitude,’” said Clarissa. But the skeptics are more apt to listen to Davis now that she is heading for the Olympics.
Davis said she believes she has a good chance to be on the 1988 Olympic team since she has played with the team the past three summers. Coach Conradt agreed, saying, “She’ll give it her best effort.”
“The next two months will be the most intense,” said Davis, “as I’ll do things I’m not supposed to be doing. I have to work harder to discipline myself. Its not going to be as easy.”
Despite the popularity and accolades from winning every award that a college basketball player could win, including two gold medals, Davis considers her trust to be in God and not her athletic ability. A junior in Broadcast Journalism, she wants to go into full-time Christian ministry after she graduates.
Davis sees basketball as an avenue for her to share the gospel with fellow players and fans. She has even been able to share her faith with President Reagan. While at the White House for a special Women’s Day in Sports event, Davis said she wanted to encourage him: “He was just standing around, and I went over to him and said, ‘You really have a hard job and I want to let you know that I’m praying for you and standing with you.’ He almost cried,” she said.
Most Lady Longhorn fans were disappointed and upset by Davis’ devastating injury in December, and it was most assuredly a painful experience for this All American athlete. But Clarissa Davis has pulled the ultimate rebound – and thousands of people are now watching how she is going to play during these next few months before the 1988 Olympic Games. If Clarissa Davis keeps up her current record, you can expect a miracle.