Friday, January 13, 2017

"Liv Healy Triumphs!" -- the feel-good, real life story of the former Richmond player now at New Hampshire

You know those happy endings on the big screen that move folks to tears? Liv Healy doesn't need a Hollywood script to provide hers. She's got one better.

Real life.

The former Richmond guard, who transferred to New Hampshire for her final three semesters of eligibility after graduating last month, scored 14 fourth-quarter points in the Wildcats' 71-58 victory over Albany on Wednesday. ('Cats hadn't beaten Albany since 2011 btw.)

It had been almost two years since Healy had appeared in a basketball game. A refresher on the back story: Healy suffered two ACL tears, one to each knee, at Richmond. The second one, a year after the first, came Feb. 11, 2015 at Dayton after a 17-point outing from Healy. Worse than the first, it included tears to the right and left meniscus and a sprain to her MCL.

When we talked to her in October 2015, Healy was despondent about the daunting recovery process. Playing basketball again seemed like an iffy proposition at best.

See why the film "Liv Healy triumphs!" could be the feel-good film of 2017?

"I definitely wasn't expecting 25 minutes," said Healy, now a graduate student at New Hampshire.

Or 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting, six rebounds and an assist.

"Once I hit the layup, I was like, 'OK, I got my layup down.' Then once I hit a little jumper, I was like, 'OK. I got the jumper down.' Then I hit the 3 and I was like, 'All right! I got the 3!' Then I hit the foul shot and I was like, 'I'm good now.' "

"I was so happy that I did that because I didn't feel like I was forcing anything. I was just playing basketball. And I don't think I ever played basketball without thinking since I've gone to college. I also don't think I've ever had so much fun with people I don't know all that well."

While Spider fans surely would love to see Healy in a Spiders uniform, she says she needed a fresh start. After practicing with the Richmond men's club team all fall, she found it at New Hampshire. Prior to making the decision to transfer there, she talked with Kat Fogarty, an AAU buddy of hers who transferred to UNH from Marist. Healy liked what she heard.

"I love being part of a team that is so supportive," she said. "They moved me into their house. Even helped with carpooling. I don't feel like a mid-year transfer at all. I was meant to be here in the first place."

The NCAA cleared Healy only last week, though she's practiced with the Wildcats since Dec. 18. As if this movie needs more drama, the learning curve was steep.

"Every single drill was different," Healy said. "It was pretty overwhelming but I tried not to look overwhelmed. I got the playbook and was testing myself over Christmas break."

After walk through on Wednesday night, coach Maureen Magarity reminded her not to feel any pressure to score. "Just play," she advised.

"To actually be able to help a team, that's what I wanted to do," Healy said.

The knee, by the way, is fine. The early long practices led to some soreness, but Healy receives occasional treatment and loves the fact that she left the brace behind. It actually made the car ride to New Hampshire, but it stayed in the trunk of her dad's car and made the 2 1/2-hour trek back to Rhode Island, Reading, Mass.

"My dad said, " 'We don't need this anymore,' " Healy said. "Just having that confidence from my dad helped me break off from that. I played pickup all fall without it."

Now given Healy has become a writer -- she's going for her master's in recreation management policy with a concentration in kinesiology now after earning her bachelor's in journalism at Richmond -- could she have scripted this any better?

Frankly, we could ask that of Francis Ford Coppola.

"Both of my parents were in the stands, and every single one of my family members watched online and everyone from high school and Richmond, too, so the support could not have been better," she said. "When I hit that layup in the fourth quarter, I talked to my mom and she almost started crying. I think I almost started crying, too, but it was more happy tears.

"It's been a long journey, but I'm so glad I ended up UNH."

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