DUBUQUE — Kari Fitzpatrick can make an impact at just about any location on a basketball floor.
After a nine-month rehabilitation stint to repair a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in her right knee, being back on the court at all has been a treasured reward for the Loras College junior.
“I feel great,” Fitzpatrick said. “I don’t feel limited at all. My knee is never really sore. ... I’ve been pretty lucky and it definitely helps me to be confident. ... The toughest part was just not being able to help out my teammates.”
Fitzpatrick was a Class 2A first team all-state selection in 2015 at Edgewood-Colesburg, where she graduated as the school’s all-time leader in points (1,575) and steals (380). She began her collegiate career at Division II Upper Iowa and appeared in 45 games in two seasons before transferring to Division III Loras. The knee injury, the first serious ailment of her playing career, ended her first season with the Duhawks after just three games.
“It was long,” Fitzpatrick said of the rehabilitation. “Nine months of just relearning how to walk, raise your leg, just getting back to running. I don’t think I was running good until month 7. Just trying to be patient and hopefully be confident that everything will be good and you’ll be healthy at the end of it.”
Through seven games this season for Loras (4-3), Fitzpatrick is averaging 11.7 points and five rebounds per game and leads the team with 29 total assists. She also has posted 14 steals, three blocks and has made 44-percent of her shot attempts, including 10 made 3-pointers.
“What you’re seeing a little bit right now is her ability to impact different parts of the game,” Loras Coach Justin Heinzen said. “Distributing, rebounding, controlling the ball makes everybody better. Puts people in good spots.”
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Heinzen credits Fitzpatrick for her ability to defend multiple positions, which affords him tremendous flexibility in where to place on her on the floor. Before the injury, Fitzpatrick logged minutes at both forward positions and shooting guard. This season, her versatility has expanded to include time at point guard and power forward.
“Having that opportunity from the coaching staff to be able to play multiple positions and feel confident in that role,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have a lot of girls on our team that can do that, it’s not just me. That really opens up things for a lot of people. Whether that is distributing the ball or scoring or rebounding, I’ll just do whatever I need to do to help the team.”
With nine freshmen and just two returning players with significant rotation experience from last season — sophomore forward Marissa Schroeder and senior forward Hanna Stokes, a Clear Creek Amana graduate — a healthy, multidimensional Fitzpatrick boosts the overall potential for this year’s Duhawks.
“We’re competing at a pretty high level,” Heinzen said. “There’s more to come. ... We’re super-explosive and pretty dynamic. ... We’re still learning a bunch and I think there is a lot of room to grow. That is kind of fun and scary at the same time.”
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