Comeback kid

Claire Harvey is back, and in a big way for the Bisons

Claire Harvey sets up for a foul shot.Claire Harvey sets up for a foul shot.

In a game against the University of British Columbia in January 2016, Bison women’s basketball player Claire Harvey went for a routine crossover.

“I just got a rebound and I was bringing the ball up the floor, I did a crossover, same thing I’ve done a million times before and I just fell and I was in a lot of pain,” Harvey said. “I knew exactly what had happened. People were trying to tell me that it wasn’t but I knew what it was for sure.”

Harvey had torn her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), an injury she had experienced in her grade 10 year at Fort Richmond Collegiate. The road to recovery after an ACL tear is a long one. The ACL is one of the key ligaments that stabilizes the knee joint and after undergoing surgery, the standard rehab time is seven to nine months, though it can also stretch longer.

Knowing she was set for a long spell on the sidelines, Harvey was determined not to dwell on it.

“It was demoralizing, but I knew I had to be there for my teammates because they were still playing and they had to finish up the season,” she said. “I made it a point that I was not sulking on the bench. I was actually supporting my teammates and being there for them.”

The Bisons finished that year with a 1-19 record, dead last in the Canada West. Harvey potentially could have returned for the 2016-17 season, but elected to sit it out.

“I was able to get my surgery fairly quickly and I was actually able to play that season, but I decided to take the extra time and prepare myself a little bit more so that I could be the best I could be for the team,” she said.

Harvey said that decision was met with a bit of criticism, but she said she knew the extra time would pay off. She was right and has become a regular starter for the Bisons this season.

“It’s really good to be a part of that and be a big contributor. But there are a lot of people who aren’t playing but are a big contributor to my personal sanity sometimes,” she said.

“Especially if I’m having a bad game or a bad practice. They’re the ones in practice that are making me better. They have a lot to do with my success and it’s not just me, as well as the players I play with on the floor.”

Originally a perimeter player, Harvey has made the transition to playing post, and has done well adapting to her new position, averaging 6.9 rebounds a game and leading the conference in blocks with 31.

“It’s been a big change, I’ve had to be a lot more physical because I am a lot smaller than a lot of the posts in the league but I think I’ve grown into my role pretty well,” she said.

Harvey got into the game of basketball through her father, Malcolm, and pointed to his support throughout her career – no matter what she decided to do. Harvey had opportunities to go to a few different schools after high school but elected to join the Bisons and help them rebuild. After years of sitting in the Canada West basement, Manitoba is challenging for the playoffs.

“When you’ve experienced losing so much it makes winning all that much better,” Harvey said. “It was even to the point where losing was a regular thing, and you develop almost no reaction to it. It’s a numb feeling. You should be so pissed off that you want to work that much harder to win.”

Hall of Fame NFL coach Vince Lombardi  once said that “Winning is a habit, unfortunately so is losing.” A habit the Bisons have broken this season, it seems, and it was a series against the University of Regina early in the season that opened their eyes. In the Friday game, the Bisons were stomped 85-48, but on Saturday lost by only three points, falling 72-69.

“That was our TSN turning point for the season. We realized that even though we had lost, we made huge improvements in just one day against a team that was ranked second,” Harvey said.

“We really proved to ourselves and to a lot of people that we could make a run to playoffs and even the CanWest championship.”