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WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Slowly, but surely

Heather VanHoegarden | Tuesday, January 25, 2005

After arthroscopic knee surgery in December, Courtney LaVere is finally getting back to her old form.

“I have a lot more confidence,” LaVere said after No. 6 Notre Dame’s win 63-47 win over Rutgers Sunday evening. “I think it affected me more than I would ever know.”

LaVere had her breakout game Wednesday night in a tough Big East road contest against Syracuse. When the Irish got off to a slow start, she came fast off the bench, scoring 13 first-half points on 6-for-7 shooting.

“I thought Courtney gave us a great lift off the bench,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said after that game. “She was really ready to play.”

LaVere played without her brace for the first time Wednesday since her Dec. 30 return to action. She finished with her second double-double of the season, tallying 13 points and 10 rebounds. Ironically, her first double-double came in the game when she hurt her knee, Nov. 17, against Duke.

“I played well at Syracuse, that gives me a lot more energy and playing without the knee brace really helps because I feel like I’m more and more physical,” LaVere said.

Sunday against Rutgers, the 6-foot-3 junior was a key contributor off the bench as well. She was good for nine points on 4-for-8 shooting and pulled down five rebounds in 25 minutes. She credits her improved performances to extra time in the gym.

“I needed to get more in the rhythm,” LaVere said. “I wasn’t practicing that much when I was coming back for the games, but once I practiced more, I know the rhythm of the game and the flow. Once I get out there it’s more natural to me.”

LaVere was also seen Sunday beating the Rutgers posts down the floor consistently. She ran well for a post, not to mention someone fresh off knee surgery.

“I feel like if I can use some of my speed to an advantage with other posts running the floor, I really don’t have any problem running the floor,” she said. “Really, it’s more bilateral movement that I’m still trying to get back.”

Since her return, LaVere has yet to earn back her spot in the starting. However, in her absence and during her first games back, sophomore Crystal Erwin has stepped up in the starting role. Erwin had 24 points Dec. 11 against Washington on 9-for-9 shooting, and just Sunday, she grabbed a team-high nine rebounds in 22 minutes of action.

But LaVere said her role coming off the bench hasn’t fazed her.

“It’s an adjustment, but Crystal’s doing a great job out there,” LaVere said. “I’m working my way back into the lineup, and I’m going to do everything in practice that I can to show I’m ready.”

So is LaVere 100 percent yet?

“In the 90s,” LaVere said. “But I’m getting there.”

And with her recent performances, the Irish are glad to have her back.