BINGHAMTON (WBNG) — For the second straight basketball season, Binghamton’s Lexi Gruss is 12 Sports’ Athlete of the Week. Last year, Gruss earned the award amidst a breakout junior season, but, about a month later, she tore her ACL, ending her junior year and putting Gruss back to square one.
“Last season, she was having her best season that I’ve ever had her at,” said Binghamton head coach Willie Fann. “So, I’ve had her since eighth grade.”
“It felt like I had just kind of hit my peak performance in high school basketball,” said Binghamton senior guard Lexi Gruss.”
“Ball was going in,” said Fann. “Every pass she was making was perfect. Her defense was superb. She was a great leader on and off the floor, so it was hard to see her go down.”
A torn ACL in her right knee in January put Gruss on the sidelines for the rest of the year.
“It was really heartbreaking,” said Gruss. “It was crushing, yeah.”
But, her story doesn’t end there. Gruss rehabbed all offseason to make it back for her senior season.
“Having to start back from step one and having to learn to rewalk and shoot and run and play defense,” said Gruss. “It was definitely a struggle, but my parents kept me positive.”
“She’s naturally a hard-worker,” said Fann. “So, that part I wasn’t really worried about her coming back. I knew she would come back. I knew she would come back even stronger.”
“I expected to go out and play AAU and hopefully get a lot more recruiting and offers, but since it wasn’t, it was definitely similar to last year,” said Gruss. “I still went out and I played a lot and I watched a lot more basketball than before and it was really fun still traveling with my AAU team and learning some stuff.”
The last hurdle to clear, the mental one.
“If the doctor said you’re cleared to play, just play,” said Fann. “I’d rather you play and god forbid, if you do get hurt, you play the way that you want to play, that you’re capable of playing.”
One year to the day of her ACL tear, Gruss scored a season-high 20 points to lead Binghamton to victory against Ithaca last Friday night.
“It was awesome to see her out there just playing and if you actually saw the game, she was kind of all over the place, on the floor, rebounding, making passes, making shots,” said Fann.
“Feels amazing,” said Gruss. “Oh my gosh, I missed basketball a lot and I’m really happy I can play again and playing as well as I am now.”
Gruss told 12 Sports, she’d love to continue her basketball career in college and she’s currently kicking around some offers.