In the 2012 season, the West Virginia women’s basketball team went without its best player.
Senior Asya Bussie sat out the entire 2011-12 season after tearing her ACL in preseason practices.
As a junior, Bussie averaged 12.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, all while shooting 53 percent from the field.
“It happened when I was going up for a rebound, and the ball slipped out of my hands,” Bussie said. “When the ball fell to the floor, me and one of the practice players dove for it, but he dove into my knee.
I felt a pop, so I didn’t (actually) think I tore my ACL.”
In their debut season in the Big 12 Conference, the Mountaineers finished 17-14, which marked the first time the team failed to reach 20 wins since the 2008-09 season. In 2011-12, when Bussie was healthy, West Virginia was 24-10 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
In 2010, Bussie was named to the Freshman Team All-Big East, and she followed that up with a First Team All-Big East nod in 2012.
“(The injury) was really tough and frustrating,” Bussie said. “I’d have to go past the team to go into the training room and sit in there for three hours. (During) game days, I would be really emotional.”
Bussie redshirted last season, which meant her time in Morgantown will be extended by one year.
“I don’t want to leave,” Bussie said. “I’m actually excited that I’ll be here another year with (Coach Carey) and these girls.”
Under head coach Mike Carey, the Mountaineers have found great success. Since his hiring in 2001, West Virginia has made the NCAA Tournament seven times, including five trips to the second round.
In 2009, Carey’s Mountaineers won a school-record 29 games and was ranked as high as No. 7 in the Associated Press Poll during the year.
“Aysa is at about 95 percent (healthy),” Carey said. “She’s moving very well; it’s just a matter of getting used to contact and space. Every day I see improvement.”
Bussie said she echoes her coach’s feelings.
“I thought I would be in a lot more pain in practice,” Bussie said. “But don’t have any pain, and if I do, Ibuprofen and Tylenol fixes that. I try not to (favor) it, I just try to play the way I did before the injury.”
With Bussie back in the lineup, Carey said the offense will be run through her during the season.
“Our guards need to always look for (Bussie) inside (the paint),” he said. “We want to play more of an inside-out game this year (compared) to (2012).”
The Mountaineers kick off the season Friday against Ohio State. Although unranked, West Virginia received 53 votes in the preseason poll.
“I’m really excited,” Bussie said. “I feel like this season means a lot more after having to sit out and watch the team. (This process) made me a lot more mentally tougher.”