CEDAR RAPIDS — When the Kirkwood women’s basketball team takes the court Wednesday against DMACC in Boone, it will have been 734 days since redshirt sophomore Ashley Tull played for the Eagles.
“I have a calendar in my phone,” Tull said. “But it’s in my head now that we are getting close to our first game.”
You don’t count each day for nearly two years unless you are looking forward to, or trying to distance yourself from, something.
Tull is doing both.
“It’s just a reminder of how much progress I’ve made and how I’ve come this far,” Tull said. “I also need to stay focused on the season, protect my body and make sure I’m ready to play.”
After looking at Central, Wartburg and a few NAIA schools, the 5-foot-11 North Linn grad joined the Eagles program in the fall of 2018 just a few weeks removed from her 18th birthday.
“Coach called and said you’re coming for a visit,” Tull said. “I loved it and it really felt comfortable and like home. Plus, it was close to home which is nice. I just bonded well with coach right away.”
Kim Muhl, who has led the Eagles’ program for the last 32 years, also enjoyed the connection.
“I liked the way she played. She was a big kid that had a motor,” Muhl said. “North Linn has a good program and she was a good kid that is solid academically and a really great teammate. That was all part of the package.”
Everything was in place and after a foot injury from high school healed, Tull played roughly the first 20 games of the season before tearing her ACL.
Tull couldn’t finish the season, but was determined to return.
“I was going to come back last year (2019-20) and it was going to be fine,” Tull said. “I was going to work my knee out and it was going to be good, but it lingered a little longer. That’s when Coach asked if I wanted to leave, or stay.”
Tull’s decision was fairly easy.
“I felt bad about not playing last year, but it was best for me to wait and stay,” Tull said. “Make sure I’m fully healthy before I go somewhere else.”
Playing always has been the goal for Tull, even when others wondered if there might be an easier path than basketball.
“I like basketball, but I wasn’t very good in middle school,” Tull said. “They said, ‘Maybe you should stick with volleyball,’ but I just stuck with it and it turned out all right.”
Now she is focused on small, attainable goals.
“I’m just staying positive and focused on what I want to do, which is play basketball and have fun,” Tull said. “Play some games, that’s about it.”
Tull hopes to continue her education and career away from the Kirkwood campus.
“I could come back if I want to, but coach said it would be morally irresponsible of him to suggest another year,” Tull said. “I joked that I’m never leaving and my mom said, ‘That’s not funny, Ashley. You need to find a degree.’ I said ‘yeah you’re right mom.’
“I’ve spent enough time here and I need to get on and find a career and be an adult.”