NO DOUBTING DOTY
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 22:01
Forced to sit the entire 2010-2011 season because of the third tear, Doty redshirted what would have been her junior season.
Last year, Doty returned to the court and managed to make it through the season injury-free. Despite it being her fourth year on campus, it was just her second full season in a UConn uniform.
After seeing a decline in her playing time and production during that season – she fell to just 20.6 minutes per game, 5.0 points per game and tallied just 71 assists – her role during games as a senior this year seems to be fairly limited.
Though she’s started 16 of the team’s first 18 games, the intense competition at guard from senior Kelly Faris, junior Bria Hartley, sophomore Brianna Banks and freshman Moriah Jefferson has left the injury-plagued Doty to play just under 18 minutes per night. In that limited time, Doty has averaged four points, 2.5 assists and 2.7 rebounds. Those numbers were aided in large part due to a double-double performance at Oregon on New Year’s Eve. The 14 points and 12 rebounds she posted that afternoon remain her season-highs to this point.
A few weeks prior to that breakout game against the Ducks, on Dec. 3, Doty finally reached the 100-game milestone that for most players, especially at UConn, is fairly routine.
“We play a lot of games at Connecticut, so we’ve had a lot of kids who have played a lot ... and to have Caroline fight through those three ACLs, obviously it’s not easy to do that and it takes a lot of character on her part to keep playing,” Auriemma said that night after his team dispatched No. 9 Maryland.
But despite her perseverance, the trio of tears has left her vulnerable to flare ups and occasional swelling that always bear the unfortunate possibility of leaving her sidelined.
Evidence of the damage done came in the team’s first exhibition game this season, when Auriemma relegated her to the bench because of a tweak to her knee.
“All year long, there’s going to be issues,” Auriemma said after that early November exhibition. “For the most part, I think it’s nothing for anybody to worry about, anybody to obsess about, because there’s nothing you can do about it. I would say 90 percent of the time in practice and 90 percent of the time when she’s out on the floor in games, there’s no problems whatsoever. But given her history, there’s just enough times when it’s like, ‘Uh oh.’ And then those times we just shut it down, walk away from it and live to play another day.”
Though the decision to sit her for that exhibition was mostly precautionary to help keep her knee healthy throughout the course of the season, Doty acknowledged that the knee requires a certain degree of special care to sustain it.
“Not before practice usually – a lot of stuff is after practice,” Doty says about protecting her knee. “I try to get in the cold tub, or I try to ‘game ready,’ or I try to foam roll, then cold tub – so just a few different things to maintain it.”
Though she will likely not be able to put in the same number of minutes that she has in the past, Auriemma still has high hopes for his fifth-year senior and knows that her experience, more so than her physical abilities, is the greatest strength she brings to the team.
Three tears in the same knee have stolen more from Doty than just time on the court – they’ve also taken pieces of her game away.
“You’re 23 years old, you know, you played on an undefeated team that won a national championship, you’ve missed a season,” Auriemma said of Doty in the preseason. “You’ve seen the best, you’ve seen the absolute pinnacle of what there is to see in college basketball and you’ve struggled to find your role last year.
“So, I hope Caroline does the little things that she’s capable of doing: be a good teammate, make open shots, make good decisions out on the floor, try to help some of the younger guys with what they’re going through. I think it comes to a point in every players’ career when they realize, ‘Wow, I don’t have what I used to have, I’m not physically able to do what I used to do, so now I’ve got to be a better player mentally.’ And I’m hoping that’s where she’s going to have the biggest impact for us.”
Explosiveness, hard cuts and aggressive drives to the rim are a small, if not non-existent, part of her repertoire, whereas she could once get to the hole almost at will.
Though she is still capable of shooting – especially from behind the arc, where she shot 33 percent last season – and playing strong, effort-driven defense, Doty is no longer the same player that she was when she first committed to the Huskies.
“It’s funny, I always talk about back in the ‘high school days’…every layup I was able to hit the backboard, I was able to get to the lane whenever I wanted, I was more of a penetrating guard than a shooting guard,” Doty said of how her injuries have changed her game. “Now I’ve taken on the role of finessing my three-point shot, being more of a vocal player – an energizer more than a playmaker.”
“Physically, it’s taken away some things,” assistant coach Shea Ralph said of Doty’s knee.
And if anyone at UConn can understand what Doty has endured and how knee injuries can change a player, it has to be Ralph.
Ralph had five ACL surgeries during her career – three in her left knee and two in her right. She was hired by Auriemma as an assistant before Doty’s freshman year and has been with her every step of the way throughout her college career.
Throughout the surgeries, rehabilitation and the pain they both know so well, a relationship that transcends that of most players and coaches has been forged between the two.
“If I ever needed anything, she had an open door for me to go to,” Doty said of her coach. “And she definitely helped out a lot – I’m lucky to have her as a coach and as someone who’s so close.”