JEFFERSON — She’s been on the bench for each of the Lady Dragons basketball games and is arguably the best player on the team despite not playing a single minute this season.
Some Jefferson fans might say that if MiMi DuBose had not re-injured her knee during a softball game in August, the Lady Dragons basketball team may have been able to build on their preseason top 10 ranking in the Gasports.com poll. There’s also the question of whether or not the Lady Dragons softball team, which made a run to a second-place finish in the Region 8-AA tournament, may have advanced deeper into the postseason with DuBose in the lineup.
DuBose’s second knee injury (medial collateral ligament) ended her days of playing for the Lady Dragons. But she’s continued to show the determination which made her a standout player. Only now, competes against herself, battling each week against pain and fatigue to get her knee back to full health.
In addition to scoring 965 points in only 71 games, DuBose has 125 career 3-pointers and a 49-22 record as a starter while averaging 14 points, five assists, four rebounds and just under four steals per game as a member of the Lady Dragons.
When she went down with her first knee injury (anterior cruciate ligament) against Commerce in January 2008, DuBose was averaging 19 points, and eight assists per game in her junior season.
At this point though, all anyone can do is speculate as DuBose has shifted part of her focus to helping her teammates from the sidelines.
Despite not being able to play, DuBose still attends practice and sits with the team
"MiMi has continued to be a leader for us off the floor in a kind of assistant coach role," Lady Dragons coach Jason Gibson said. "Her teammates still look up to her and respect her opinion, and they’ve done a good job of listening to her when she gives advice. Her teammates understand she was probably the most passionate person in our school about basketball."
DuBose has already signed to play basketball at Georgia Southern next season, where she’ll likely be a combo guard due to her ability to handle the ball and shooting skills. Now, she’s focused on working to rehab her knee after suffering her second injury in a span of only eight months.
"The minute I got hit in that softball game I knew that I tore something," DuBose said.
"When one of the trainers from the school said he thought I tore everything in my knee, I just started bawling. At that point I didn’t know if I was going to get to play in college. It just seemed that everything was over all at once."
With her playing days for the Lady Dragons finished and hopes of playing college basketball on life support, DuBose said she had to look deep within and around herself for strength.
"It’s hard to stay positive, especially in times like that when you’ve worked so hard to get back the first time and then it happens again," DuBose said.
"I think a lot of strength came from my determination, my teammates, my parents, and most definitely my relationship with Christ, which has helped me more than anything. There are times when I’m like, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ but I realize that I’m not doing it by myself. When I get down to Southern, I’m not going to be playing for my glorification, I’ll be playing for Him, and it’ll all be worth it."
Even after admitting to feeling down and shedding a few tears in August, DuBose is all business now when discussing her goal to return to the court in time for the 2009-10 basketball season. The senior travels to Athens Orthopedic twice each week for checkups and to rehab her knee.
Following a recent session in which DuBose also had stitches removed, she joked, after catching her breath, that the rehab is "a lot worse than running during practice."
"It’s going really well," DuBose said. "The trainers and staff are really good and have worked really hard to help me get back following the first knee injury and now. (Physical therapist) Trey (Scott) does a great job. Sometimes I don’t like him very much but he pushes me pretty hard."
"She’s been doing well," Scott said. "It was a little bit of bad luck when she injured her knee again, but she’s worked hard and we’re expecting a full recovery and for her to be ready to play at the next level at Georgia Southern."
DuBose is currently going through the strength training portion of her rehab. With her estimated time of recovery still four months away, DuBose said the trainers and doctors don’t want to rush her into the agility and sprinting phase of her rehab just yet, and it will likely be March before she reaches that point.
"We’re a little bit limited in how hard we can push her now since she just went through another procedure," Scott said. "The ultimate goal though, is to return her to a high-functioning level for college sports. We like the athletes to be better than they were before the injury, and that’s our target. MiMi has a good attitude, and from an athletic standpoint, if she buys into what she’s doing and what it’s going to take, it make it more rewarding and she carries that attitude over to her team."
Although Christmas has passed, DuBose is already compiling a wish list of things she’s looking forward to when she returns to the court next season.
"I guess the thing I’m most looking forward to is just being back on the floor everyday," she said. "Right now I don’t get to shoot as much because I have to take it easy on my leg. It’s not fun and I miss it so much."
The idea that DuBose misses being out on the basketball court should come as no surprise. Growing up in a household with a father (Jefferson boys coach Bolling DuBose) who has coached basketball for 37 years, and a sister (Lee DuBose) who had an impressive career at Jefferson and GSU, and is now head coach at Gordon Central, the court has been the younger DuBose’s home away from home.
"I think one advantage MiMi’s had, is she’s grown up in a gym," Bolling DuBose said.
"She’s been kind of a gym rat her whole life. She’s always loved the game and has worked extremely hard. The biggest challenge for her has been the last year. The thing that impressed me was when they released her in July and then she hurt her knee again. She cried a lot for a couple of days, but her attitude since August has been tremendous. I don’t know if I could have done it."
She’s done it and is well on her way to doing it again.
"It’s been hard, but I’m staying focused," she said. "When I was playing, I was going from October to March with school ball, and then AAU from March to July. I was only putting the ball down for a couple of months every year. I can’t wait to get back out there and play in games again."