Just 14 months removed from tearing her right anterior cruciate ligament, University of Akron forward Rachel Tecca is showing just how good she is.
Tecca, a graduate of Archbishop Hoban, has returned to play as if she had never left the Zips, a feat akin to what Adrian Peterson accomplished in the NFL this past season in rushing for more than 2,000 yards less than a year after ACL surgery.
This, of course, isn’t the football or the pros, but Tecca’s return is impressive nonetheless.
She leads the Mid-American Conference in scoring, averaging 19 points per game, and is second in field-goal percentage, notching 56 percent on the season.
Need more evidence?
She has hit double digits in scoring every game and has 20 or more points in 13 games. The Zips are 11-2 when she does that.
“I’m not shocked because I know how much work she put in,” Zips coach Jodi Kest said of her forward’s production this season. “It’s not just about her knee [but prior surgery as well], so nobody really knows how much work Rachel’s put in.”
Tecca, a redshirt junior, was sweating rivers during early morning practices last summer, working to get back to normal. Back then a noticeable limp existed. That’s no longer the case. However, her reaction to her recovery differs from Kest’s.
“Yes. It is very surprising, I’m really blessed that I’m having such a great year,” she said. “Without my teammates looking to pass to me I wouldn’t be doing so well.”
Considering her game, she probably shouldn’t be doing as well as she is. Tecca plays primarily around the hoop but can hurt a defender with a mid-range jump shot. She plays fearlessly and aggressively on defense.
She is one of the reasons why the Zips are in first place in the MAC’s East Division. Opponents have to choose quickly whether to collapse on Tecca on the inside or to watch her kick the basketball out to one of UA’s 3-point bombardiers. It’s among the reasons the Zips lead the conference in scoring offense at 75.7 points per game and why they rank second in 3-point shooting at 33 percent.
Since the injury Tecca has adapted her game.
“I think the one positive is she’s slowed herself down,” Kest said. “At times the last couple of years before the injury, she’d go too fast for herself. With the injury, she’s much more patient. She’s slower in her decision-making, and that’s good.”
Tecca also agreed with Kest’s assessment but she has noticed another change to her game.
“My biggest adjustment is shooting more from the outside. I’ve really been trying to develop my 15-foot shot,” she said. “My knee injury has kind of helped me in the post slow down a little bit. I’m not so out of control and fast as I used to be. It’s helped me.”
But there is a scary scenario to all of this. And it’s a good scary for Kest and her team. Tecca isn’t 100 percent just yet, Kest said.
Recovery from an ACL injury is normally a two-year process. She still wears a brace on the knee and takes daily, precautionary treatment.
“I’ve said that I’ll take Rachel’s 80 percent any time because sometimes I think Rachel’s 80 percent is better than someone else’s 100 percent,” Kest said.
When she’s back to the top of her game, her team should be that much better. The irony is that her injury might have contributed to their still-evolving maturity.
“It definitely built their confidence and developed them as players. We’re all around a better team this year because of it,” Tecca said.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.