Tuesday, January 24, 2017

From walk-on to captain: Meet Liberty's Crowder and Rettstat


Very little about playing college women's basketball is glamorous. Now imagine the life of a walk-on, who goes through much of the same grind as the scholarship player but rarely gets real minutes let alone glory. Bluntly, walk-ons usually see what's regarded as garbage time -- time at the end of a blowout.

But sometimes the script plays out differently. Sometimes that dream does come true in the form of a scholarship or more.

Rarely does it happen as quickly as it did for Liberty's Audrey Rettstat, a senior. More frequently, the story is similar to the one from Tatyana Crowder, a sophomore.

Both are Lady Flames captains this season. Both started as walk-ons.

Last summer, on the eve of preparing to travel to Atlanta for an internship, Crowder got the scholarship offer from coach Carey Green: 

"It felt surreal," she said. "I'm this little ghetto kid from Roanoke.  Nobody in my family ever graduated from high school let alone college. I was ecstatic."

Playing college ball was a dream she had as a little girl growing up about an hour west of Liberty. Playing her high school ball at Liberty Christian Academy, she got offers -- Division III and NAIA. A Liberty assistant even advised her in that direction. It wasn't what she wanted to hear.

"I was crushed when he said that," she said. "I never thought I'd be here, but I knew I wanted to be at Liberty. I felt like God wanted me to be at Liberty; I didn't know why."

That same assistant later invited her to a summer bridge program for freshman athletes. Then she joined the Lady Flames as a walk-on, though her highlights last season were minimal. Crowder played in 17 games, scoring her first point on Nov. 23.

She went on to score one more the entire season, playing a mere 30 minutes in 2015-16.

"I wasn't getting financial support and I wasn't playing much," she said. "I worked super hard, but didn't get the results. That's discouraging in any area, not just basketball."

When Green offered her a scholarship over the summer, Crowder was not just appreciative but ecstatic. Being a captain is a role she relishes.

"I want to be above reproach," she said. "I want to be the hardest worker on the team, the one who serves the girls."

She's also the one with perspective. Crowder maintains a 4.0. She wants a future in social work.

"On the court if you mess up, you've got to have perspective," she said. "In life if you mess up, you've got to have perspective."

Rettstatt, a 1,000-point scorer at Ohio's Worthington High, began her journey in 2013 after her uncle reached out to Liberty to inquire about possibilities.

"Before I knew it, I was getting offered a spot as a recruited walk-on during the summer," she said.

After the first week or so, a stunningly short amount of time in retrospect, Green called Rettstatt into his office and offered her a scholarship.

"That was better than I ever dreamed," she said. "I thought it was going to take the whole summer

An injury prevented her debut until Feb. 6, 2014 against Coastal Carolina. Rettstaff saw minutes in nine of the Lady flames' final 10 games that season.

She played sparingly as a sophomore but as a junior cracked the starting lineup before suffering an ACL injury in Liberty's Big South opener at Gardner-Webb on Dec. 2, 2015.

As crushing as that was, she found confidence in what she had achieved already. The Galena, Ohio, native said initially she thought she'd struggle in the college game. It didn't take long to realize, "I can play with these girls. I can play and work hard and get time."

Rettstatt has started nine games this season, averaging just shy of 20 minutes along with 4.8 points and 3.1 rebounds. Her calm demeanor and poise have been assets given the youth on a Liberty team that has 11 freshmen and sophomores.

More importantly, the exercise science major has learned a lesson that many in their 20s and 30s still struggle to grasp: "My identity is not my performance."

No comments:

Post a Comment