By Jourdan Rodrigue, Digital Communications Intern
Swish. Swish. Swish.
Deja Mann stands at the three-point line at the ASU women's basketball team’s practice. She's shooting around between drills. She gathers the ball and hoists it into a perfect arc. Her middle fingers lightly tap her palm as she releases. The net slaps itself as it wraps around the leather. Swish. Swish.
Her shot ricochets off the rim. It's her only missed three-pointer in ten. The ball rolls away and, grinning, she jogs slowly to get it, the giant brace on her knee flexing with every step. Mann knows as well as anyone that not every shot can ease smoothly into the net.
She battled a torn ACL that forced her to sit out the 2012-2013 Sun Devil season. It mirrored the injury she sustained twice in high school on the opposite knee that forced her to stop playing her junior and senior years.
“I felt (my knee) separate and it hurt and I thought ‘oh man, not again’,” Mann said. “I’d already been through it before and it was frustrating. But I thought that since I’d already been through it I could get through it again.”
Mann was forced to watch from the sideline as her teammates played without her. In the meantime, she shot. And shot. And shot.
“Shooting and ball handling were all I could do,” she said. “I just would sit there and shoot from every spot I could think of and then once I could walk around a little I’d dribble around chairs and move and shoot.”
Mann was frustrated with her injury, but because she had already gone through it before, she knew to focus on the positives like developing her shot and coming back into an immediate leadership role on a very strong team.
“I mean, (the season) is a team effort and I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Mann said. “But if I were going to pick something I’m proud of personally, it’d just be how I’ve come back so many times and grown as a person.”
The redshirt senior has returned from the injury to have the best season of her career and in the process help the most team to its most wins since 2009. A starter in all 30 of ASU’s games this season, Mann concluded the regular season as the team’s leader in scoring (11.1 ppg), 3-pointers (46) and free throw percentage (85.4) on her way to being named to this year’s Pac-12 All-Conference Team as selected by the league’s head coaches.
In her life after college basketball, Mann will succeed at many things and maybe fail at others. But now, as only comeback athletes understand, she knows that every time she falls she’ll get up. Out of those ten three-point shots, the most important is the one she misses, the one that thunks on the rim and rolls away, because of the way she smiles and runs to pick it back up again.