By Hannah Duffey
For N’Mya Pierce, what looked like two career-ending injuries turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
The 5-foot-11-inch, redshirt senior and, starting forward for Flagler College Women’s basketball tore her Achilles, and a couple seasons later her ACL and meniscus.
For many, first-year season is when each athlete has an opportunity to prove themselves, but that was all lost soon after Pierce’s season began.
“My first severe injury was rupturing my right Achilles tendon during my freshman year of college,” Pierce said.
After making a full recovery, Pierce was on her way back to full strength when a year later she was hit by another devastating setback.
“I tore my ACL and meniscus in my left knee,” she said. “The first two months out of surgery was horrible for me because I have a low pain tolerance. So any small little thing would make me cry or be in uncomfortable amounts of pain. But as time went on, I was getting better every day and progressing so quickly.”
But Pierce didn’t let negative thoughts overtake her, or her recovery process, stayed focused on making the dream of stepping back on the court a reality.
“The recovery process was so easy for me because I am naturally a hard worker, and I was so determined to get healthy and recover as quickly as possible because I wanted to work hard and be ready for the next season,” she said.
Although she does not feel like the same person she did the first year, she is still making major strides, and her 45.6 shooting percentage continually leads the team to success.
“I learned to accept things the way they are and found ways to grow through them, whereas before I would have handled a lot of situations differently,” Pierce said.
This success story was not even in sight 3 years ago when Pierce was had what looked like a career-ending injury at the time.
But she has led her team to victory on multiple occasions, and was selected as Academy Bus Athlete of the week after a 6-plus week double-double streak this season.
A double-double is when a player scores double digits in two of these five categories; points, rebounds, assists and blocks.
Pierce didn’t always see basketball as an option. At age 13, she was tall, but never thought her height would be a connection to her future purpose and destiny. Her younger self would believe it was just a dream.
However, one coach saw something she didn’t, and was the foundation of her unfolding success story.
“I started playing basketball at the age of 13 in the eighth grade. I really did not have motivation to play basketball,” she said. “The basketball coach knew I was tall and said he could work with me, and then my life began with greatness.”
Little did Pierce know that taking advice from her middle school coach would pay off, and basketball would bring her the most joy in life.
“Being connected on the court: It is such a good feeling when the team plays together because the energy starts to become contagious, and you begin to have fun doing what you love,” she said.
That connection with her teammates and the joy when she picks up the basketball is evident, as this season has been her best yet.
It is no surprise that Pierce is following in the footsteps physically and characteristically of her biggest role model, Angel Reese, a player for the LSU Tigers.
“Angel Reese is a double-double machine, and I love how she manages being a beautiful black queen off the court! The characteristics she has is being a great rebounder, not caring what others think and being that girl on the court,” Pierce said.
From Pierce’s middle school coach to her collegiate coach, Cazzie Russell, a former NBA player, her coaches have had a lasting impact on her success story.
Her bond with Coach Russell is unbreakable.
“I am very blessed to have him as my coach,” she said. “He means a lot to me because he always looks out for me, motivates me all the time and he always wants me to do better.”
Pierce said he has helped her gain confidence, taught her new moves, and overall, changed the dynamic of her game.
“Without him, there is no telling if I would ever be in the position I am in right now,” she said. “Also, it is a blessing to say that I have had a retired NBA player as my coach training me in my college years.”