Indiana Daily Student

IU sophomore still trying to recover from concussion

Sophomore guard Jess Walter shoots a three during the game against Illinois on Wednesday at Assembly Hall.
Sophomore guard Jess Walter shoots a three during the game against Illinois on Wednesday at Assembly Hall.

Sophomore guard Jess Walter has always known about concussions. She’s talked with teammates, but never quite understood the injury.

Not until she suffered one herself on the day of Hoosier Hysteria. After the Hoosiers’ practice Oct. 24th, 2015, the 6-foot guard became an expert on the frustrating, boring and lingering symptoms that she dealt with for weeks.

Walter’s recovery off-the-court ended around winter break, but her on-the-court recovery showed signs of promise after a season-high 15 points on 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range to help IU upset No. 20 Northwestern, 91-84 Sunday.

“It’s been pretty hard coming back from my concussion,” Walter said prior to Sunday’s clash with the Wildcats. “I never really knew what a concussion was. When people said ‘Oh, I have a concussion,’ I would just be like, ‘Oh that sucks,’ because I never had one before.”

Walter, who was hit in the chin while defending in practice, was completely shut down for three weeks following the incident — something that she hadn’t done since she was seven years old.

“I was kind of out of it for a second,” Walter said of being hit in the jaw. “But then I was like, ‘No I’m fine, I’m fine’ but I was crying and couldn’t stop. I was really mad at myself that I was crying because I think I knew that I had a concussion but I didn’t want one. They tested me and I couldn’t remember anything.”

Walter technically made her return in an upset win of No. 24 Chattanooga on Nov. 17, 2015, but just played one minute.

Walter returned to the rotation amidst one of IU’s toughest games in the non-conference season, as the Hoosiers fell to No. 19 DePaul on Nov. 19 , 2015.

Walter played 13 minutes of that game, scoring five points on 2-of-4 shooting from the floor. Four of her first nine games back were against power-conference teams before Walter eventually found her way back into Moren’s starting lineup against Yale.

“I was completely out for three weeks,” Walter said. “No biking, no anything. The last time I haven’t done anything for three weeks was second grade when I started playing basketball. I was really out of shape and lost a lot of muscle. Trying to get all of that back and getting into the rhythm again against tougher teams was kind of hard.”

Walter missed the little things. The running, the weight-lifting, the layups. For three weeks, one of IU’s bright spots from 2014-15 was unable to contribute to her team as her sophomore season began. She averaged 7.4 points per game and shot 42 percent from 3-point range as a freshman despite being buried in Moren’s rookie rotation.

“When you’re doing it, you’re just like, ‘ugh,’” Walter said of the conditioning. “You just have to grit your teeth and get through it. But when you can’t do it for three weeks and you’re sitting on the side, everything in you wants to be out there so bad. It keeps it in perspective. I was so happy when I got cleared for non-contact practice. I was doing layups and I was so happy to do stuff again.”

Walter, a student in the Kelley School of Business, said she also had to work her way back into classes following her concussion. With little to do, Walter said she spent a lot of her time in the dark with limited screen time.

“It was really boring,” Walter said. “You’re working back into class too, so I had one day that was three days of class. When I had that, my symptoms got a lot worse and I wouldn’t be able to make it through practice. It was the balance of making it through all of your classes and making it through watching practice.”

Luckily, Walter had fellow sophomores Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill, her roommates, to keep her company. Buss wore her jersey during the 3-point shooting contest of Hoosier Hysteria; Walter was scheduled to participate in the contest, but could not play due to injury.

“They were really nice,” Walter said of Buss and Cahill. “They’d come into my room and talk to me because I couldn’t do anything. They drove me around and were there for me. They kept my spirits up, I was really frustrated because you don’t want that to happen. It could’ve happened two weeks later, it’s better now than later on.”

Walter had her struggles once she was finally able to step out on the floor of Assembly Hall — she shot 11-of-47 from the field in her first 13 games back. After four consecutive starts over winter break, Walter fell out of Moren’s starting lineup in place of junior guard Karlee McBride after the loss at Purdue.

With back-to-back consistent performances this past week, though, Walter’s recent play has showed that she may be able to build on her freshman year, after all.

“Right now it’s my role to come off the bench and give us a boost, whether that’s offensively or defensively,” Walter said. “Every game I come into it with that mindset.”

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