The Return of Seimone Augustus
The Lynx star is ready to bounce back with a vengeance after season-ending injury
by Ben York
There’s an age old saying that the night is darkest just before the dawn. For Seimone Augustus, the dawn is finally coming.
Just 6 games into the 2009 WNBA season, the Minnesota Lynx were flying high under new head coach Jennifer Gillom, rivaling the Phoenix Mercury in terms of excitement and scoring. Seimone Augustus, Minnesota’s perennial All-Star and one of the best players in the game, was third in the league in scoring, averaging 21 points per game and shooting 57% from the floor. She even won Western Conference Player of the Week honors for leading the Lynx to their strong start. Legitimate buzz surrounded the young, exuberant, and up-tempo team and optimism began to consume Lynx fans in Minnesota and across the country.
Unfortunately, that optimism fell by the wayside much too fast. A freak accident in a road game against the Phoenix Mercury would dramatically alter the 2009 season for the Lynx in the sheer blink of an eye.
Midway through a close battle in Phoenix on June 17, Augustus was heading down the floor in a typical transition break when she was inadvertently bumped, causing a buckle in her knee. Hoping it was just a sprain or even a dislocation, MRI scans later revealed a torn ligament which would require surgery – and end her season. Seimone’s injury was an extremely devastating blow not just to the entire Lynx organization after such a promising start, but more so for Seimone who was coming off such a phenomenal showing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics where she helped Team USA win the gold.
It was an incredibly morose scene, watching Seimone lay on the floor in such agonizing pain; I was actually just a mere few feet from where the injury occurred. Seeing Seimone’s heart-wrenching emotion firsthand was certainly a humbling experience and one that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Nobody wants to see a player go out like that, and coupled with the beauty of Seimone’s basketball ability, makes it that much more difficult.
Augustus was given the honor of being labeled as the “Next Michael Jordan” at the age of 14 by Sports Illustrated. She certainly lived up to the hype during her college years at Louisiana State University, earning All-American honors three times, the Naismith College Player of the Year award twice, the Wooden Award twice, and three-straight Final Four appearances. Graduating LSU in 2006, Augustus was selected by the Minnesota Lynx as the #1 overall pick, later going on to win the WNBA Rookie of the Year award and earning a spot in the 2006 All-Star game.
Needless to say, her impact on the WNBA was immediate and awe-inspiring. Having such an unbelievalbe start to a career be threatened by a serious knee injury so early on was difficult to comprehend and make sense of for Augustus.
However, as I mentioned above, Seimone isn’t the type of player to be down for long. Sitting out the entire year has provided a motivation for Augustus to come back with a vengeance. Augustus made the decision to stay in Minnesota during the off-season to focus 100% on the rehabilitation of her knee. Simply put, Seimone is poised to come back stronger than ever. “I’m motivated to come back as a more complete player,” Augustus said. “This experience has helped me understand I need to go hard at all times; in practice go hard, shoot-arounds go hard, because you never know when it can change.”
Another major change for Seimone was the cutting of her trademark dreadlocks. Though, for Seimone, the change in appearance represented a new direction in life rather than just another haircut. “It was a life changing year for me and my family,” Augustus said. “It was just time to cut it off, start fresh. My dad was having a tough time with MS [Multiple Sclerosis] and it was a tough battle for my family and I. Tearing the ACL was life changing and it was just time for a new beginning.”
Seimone’s rehab couldn’t be going better, and it’s easy to sense the focus and determination that Seimone has to return to her old form. There is an indelible feeling of perseverance that exudes from Augustus when she talks about coming back in 2010. She’s in the gym on a daily basis working to not only improve physically, but mentally, as well. Lynx fans will be happy to know that the wait to see Seimone back on the basketball court isn’t much longer. “I can’t complain, I feel good,” Seimone said with a smile. “I’m doing more basketball related things like running, jumping, and weights and in January will return to full contact. I should be 100% in January and could even start playing basketball in December.”
In spite of the injury to Seimone, Minnesota worked feverishly to make a push for the final playoff spot in the West, but fell just a few games short. Next year, however, the Lynx own the #1 and #4 spots in the 2010 WNBA draft which will unquestionably enhance this already talented and deep team. Led by a group of athletic players in Charde Houston, Candice Wiggins, Renee Montgomery, and Nicky Anosike the Lynx will be a menacing force in the WNBA. But, is the talk of championship contention too early? Not for Augustus. “Next year is the year,” Seimone said. “I was proud to see how the team handled the injury. The whole team has matured and the quality of play has gotten so much better. I think there is a big buzz in Minnesota about us. There will be high expectations but at the same time it’s really exciting.”
Although it was a trying year for Seimone personally, she loved and appreciated what a phenomenal season it was for the advancement of the league as a whole. The WNBA Finals provided a national platform that any player would love to participate in, fueling Augustus’s determination even more. “I think it was a big plus,” Augustus said. “There was so much more TV exposure and even more celebrities at our games. I think there was a ‘Star Watch’ feature at some point which tracked the celebrities that came. People are starting to not compare it with the NBA stereotype and appreciate what we bring to the game.”
A healthy Seimone Augustus is a scary thought to opposing defenses. Perhaps more frightening, there’s little doubt that Augustus will return better than ever.
For more on Seimone Augustus, visit her website at http://www.seimone33.com/.