Kenya Olley: Leading from the sidelines

After suffering four injuries throughout her career, Olley perseveres

| January 31, 2017
Kenya Olley keeps spirits high on the bench. Photo by Chris Crews

Kenya Olley keeps spirits high on the bench. Photo by Chris Crews

Injuries are a common and unfortunate phenomenon in all sports. Concussions, broken bones, tears and sprains are all fair game, and it’s tough to watch players suffer through them. It’s even harder if you are a teammate or a loved one of an injured athlete and see the struggle behind the scenes. But, as all cliche’s state, it’s not the fall that should be memorable– it’s the grind back.

For senior basketball player Kenya Olley, injuries have been a bump in the road. The most recent setback, a torn ACL, has ended her season and left Charlotte one post player short.

During her high school career Olley was injured twice. With a different attitude the set backs were difficult to overcome.

“The first two injuries, I was really young and I didn’t know how to handle it. So I was very bad at trying to pick out the positives,” Olley said. “I was always negative, like ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do that,’ when really, I can do it. So it’s just a mindset.”

The Spartanburg, South Carolina native didn’t let the injuries hold her back too much on the court. Though she suffered an injury her senior season, Olley averaged a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. She earned all-state and all-region honors, along with being named the player of the year by the Spartanburg Hearld-Journal. As a senior she earned all-state and all-region honors.

Her freshman year at Charlotte, the forward saw action in 16 games, putting up a season-high inner points against Cincinnati. She finished out the season scoring at least one point in the last four games she played. In Olley’s sophomore season she played in all 32 games, starting one contest. She recorded two double-digit scoring performances and set a Halton Arena record with eight blocks against North Texas. She also led the squad with 19 boards in three games.

She started out her junior season by starting the first three games of the season. She missed the majority of conference play due to another injury. Olley made a timely return in time for the conference tournament, seeing time in the Conference USA Championship Quarterfinals.

Her anticipated return this season was cut short due to an ACL tear. According to Olley, the injury happened when she attempted to box out. She stepped incorrectly and felt it tear. Later, Olley noted that she had felt pain in her knee when the squad was warming up, but she elected not to say anything.

“I kinda already figured it out when I did it because I heard a pop and a tear. So when I did it, I already knew but I was trying not to speak it into existence. I was trying to be positive, like I said, and tried to have a good mindset about it. But when I got it [the result] back, it was like I was already mentally prepared.”

Ever since the injury, Olley and the Niners have been going through the process of acquiring a medical redshirt. Being that Olley is a senior, she is trying to weigh the positives and negatives of the situation before making a decision. In the meantime, Olley has been an encouraging voice from the sidelines, acting as another coach.

“It’s moreso that I want to see my teammates be successful and I want to see them make it to the championship. I try to help any way I possibly can. If it’s helping them off the court, then that’s what I try to do,” Olley said.

Olley said the recovery process is going well. Before getting back to physical basketball activity, she must strengthen her legs with multiple exercises, including the stationary bike and leg raises. The exercises will help increase her mobility and help her knee to bend correctly.

Head coach Cara Consuegra had nothing but praise for her veteran forward as she works her way back.

“I think one of the most impressive qualities Kenya has is she is so positive. And no matter how many obstacles have come in her way here at Charlotte, she’s never been down and out,” Consuegra said. “Maybe for a day, but she always bounces back. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself; she still contributes to the team.”

As Consuegra and all coaches know, senior experience and leadership is priceless.

“Even today in practice, if you watch her, she’s on the sideline giving reminders to the post players, she’s giving reminders to the guards. Being a senior on this team, we need that from her. Because even if she’s not out here playing, she knows the way that we do things and what needs to be done. We need to hear her voice,” Consuegra said.

Hopefully, that voice will continue to power the heartbeat and soul of this Charlotte basketball team.

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Category:Sports, Women's Basketball

Zach Timmons, better known as ZT, is a junior at UNC Charlotte. He is an English major and is also minoring in journalism. In his free time, ZT enjoys writing spoken word poetry, drawing, and making beats.

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Zach Timmons, better known as ZT, is a junior at UNC Charlotte. He is an English major and is also minoring in journalism. In his free time, ZT enjoys writing spoken word poetry, drawing, and making beats.