By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — She couldn’t be serious.
When University of Washington senior basketball player Sara Mosiman prepared to have a rod inserted into her right shin 21⁄2 months ago, she matter-of-factly stated that she’d be back for this week’s final two home games.
Never mind that the last time she had the surgery — on her left leg in August 2007 — Mosiman was out almost three months. Never mind that some teammates thought they’d played with her for the final time, and that even optimistic head coach Tia Jackson had all but closed the book on Mosiman’s career.
I will, Mosiman told anyone who would listen, be back.
And she was. Four weeks ago, after missing just 13 games.
Mosiman’s miraculous rehabilitation put her back on the court on Feb. 4, when she played five minutes in a road loss to Arizona State. She has come off the bench in each of the past six games, leading up to this, the final week of the regular season.
“It’s been kind of a dream,” Mosiman said this week. “I’m blessed to have this opportunity. It’s kind of funny looking back. This was supposed to be the big week, and now it’s here and I’ve already been playing. I’m really lucky.”
Mosiman’s early return has served as an inspiration to those who play alongside her.
“Mo’s a warrior,” sophomore Kristi Kingma said. “She battles for everything. I’ve never met anyone more tough than Mo.”
“It’s inspiring,” fellow senior Laura McLellan added. “She was told her season was over, and most people just would’ve said: ‘OK, I’m done.’”
Not everyone was necessarily surprised to see her back on the court.
“I just knew that if it was something that she had said in her mind, ‘I’m playing, at least for Senior Night (this Sunday),’ I didn’t really doubt that that would happen,” senior Sami Whitcomb said. “She knows her body, and I figured it was just a matter of time before she came back.”
Mosiman said she put in “four times” the rehab work this time around, but she also credits the mental approach to her early return.
“I had a little doubt (about making it back before the end of the season), just because I had so many doctors who are more educated telling me it probably wasn’t going to happen,” she said. “But I think positive thinking is actually a really great tool.”
Working in Mosiman’s favor was history. After experiencing blinding shin splints throughout the summer of 2007, she went in for a surgical procedure that August and had a rod put in her right leg. She made it back in time for the season opener but was hobbled for most of the 2007-08 season.
This time, Mosiman knew what to expect. The shin-splint sensation flared up again, this time in her left leg, and Mosiman decided to get a second operation while vowing to be back for Senior Day on March 7. That moment is two days away, and Mosiman already has more than a month of action under her belt.
“It’s unheard of after what she went through,” Jackson said. “That kid, her bounce-back, her fight and her drive is just terrific. It’s no surprise that, of all people, Mo did it.”
Jackson admitted that even she thought Mosiman was done for the season when the senior went under the knife in mid-December. But when Mosiman approached her in the last week of January and said she was ready to resume practicing, Jackson was somewhat shocked. Mosiman gradually increased her practice minutes without any sign of discomfort.
And then, having traveled with the team to Arizona because of the leadership she provided from the bench, Mosiman was cleared to play hours before the Feb. 4 game at Arizona State.
“It was more to just kind of get the cobwebs off than anything else,” Jackson said. “It was a game-day decision, and lo and behold, the kid is back. I just marvel at that.”
Mosiman played five minutes in the ASU game, 12 against Arizona two days later, then continued to be part of the rotation over the next five games.
Along the way, she’s provided inspiration for a struggling team that was in need of a spark.
“To see the passion she has for the game,” Kingma said, “and how bad she wanted to get back on the court was awesome.”