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Choosing Better Over Bitter

January 21, 2014  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The following article first appeared in the third issue of Flames Illustrated, which was sold at the Vines Center between Dec. 28 and Jan. 14. Emily Frazier and the Lady Flames will host Longwood Thursday at 7 p.m.

"And that," Emily Frazier concluded, taking a deep breath, "is my injury history."

The Lady Flames' guard rolled her eyes and chuckled. After all, she'd been talking for several minutes, and all in response to a question that would take the average college athlete mere seconds to answer in full.

For Frazier, though, a response to queries about past injuries involves journeying back to a left ACL tear in her junior year of high school, a meniscus tear to the same knee after her freshman year as a Lady Flame and last season's right ACL tear ("February 16 against Radford," she recalled with no hesitation.) and the subsequent rehabilitation processes for each.

As the saying goes, though, your struggles can make you either bitter or better. Despite the adversity she has faced throughout her basketball career, Frazier chooses the latter time and time again.

Assistant coach Brittany Campbell, a former player for the Lady Flames and no stranger to injury herself, reiterated the importance of that choice.

"Every day [you're injured], you have to come into practice or a game and say, you know what? It's going to be bigger than me today. God has a bigger plan for me and right now, even though I'm sidelined, I'm going to encourage. I'm going to make sure that teammates are picked up," Campbell said, nodding. "You have to step outside of yourself and your story and decide that, okay, God – I'm going to be a leader today, even if it's on the sideline."

With her positive outlook and determination, it is no shock that Frazier honed her leadership skills during her time off of the court. Contrary to popular belief, though, the guard went so far as to herald the benefits of bench riding for the physical aspects of her game.

"Being on the sidelines is truly one of the best things for a player," she stated. "You get to watch – to really learn basketball – so it's definitely improved my understanding of and my love for the game, surprisingly."

While her struggles have left the self-proclaimed "all or nothing" guard admittedly slower than before, Frazier spoke of the transition of her game to one that relies more heavily on intelligence and intuition than speed and strength.

One look at Frazier's assist stat line demonstrates the evolution perfectly. Though last season was cut short by her aforementioned ACL tear, the redshirt sophomore still finished second in the conference in assists per game (4.7), including a career-high 13 assists posted against Longwood on January 26. The instincts of a point guard play a role in her passing game, certainly; but her natural knowledge of teammates' position on the court is one example of valuable knowledge gained during her recovery period.

When all is said and done, the aspect in which Frazier has taken the greatest strides is simply her attitude towards the game of basketball overall.

Asked to describe Frazier's style of play, Campbell referenced her recent success in passing and ball handling, of course; but her ultimate description had less to do with her skills and more with her presence back on the hardwood.

"I think people who have gone through an injury really value the game so much more, and I think that's definitely happened for her," Campbell declared. "You can see it on her face – she's so passionate out there, and I think the ability for her to be so selfless on the court is a reflection of being injured."

The fact that Frazier is even on the court, whether back on defense or taking a shot of her own, is a source of joy for her.

"She's totally infectious," summed up Campbell, smiling.

While it may go against the grain of another athlete similarly afflicted, Frazier refuses to see anything but the good that has come out of her many unplanned days apart from the game.

"I think [injury] is always devastating," she confessed, "but the Lord was with me the whole time, as well as great coaches and teammates who never gave up on me. I'm forever thankful because they motivated me to fight, and fight hard, to get stronger with rehab and whatnot."

She glanced down at her knees, then grinned.

"All glory to God," she declared, brimming with sincerity. "I love this game – love it more and more and more."

With a leader as positive as Frazier, Flames fans can expect a sunny forecast for the team overall. Working personally toward her goal of daily, individual improvement in order to further the team's goals for winning in the Big South and beyond, Frazier will continue to play basketball with the secret weapon that allowed her to overcome the many obstacles she has faced in her collegiate career thus far: choosing better over bitter every time.
Ryley Rush is a Liberty University junior and is a freelance writer for Liberty Athletics.