After recording a double-double and breaking her career high in rebounds, Jessica Winfrey has proven herself as a rehabilitated team player.
Against Eastern Illinois, Winfrey led the team in rebounds with 18 and she scored 10 points and had two steals.
With a former career record of one 3-point shot made in a game, Winfrey improved and she shot two beyond the arc against the Panthers to make way for a new personal best.
“She’s such a tough player,” Head Coach Rob Cross said. “She steps on the court, the ball goes up in the air, and she’s going to do whatever it takes to go get it. That’s something you can’t teach; it’s something you can’t coach.”
The conference performance shattered her season stats, averaging just 7.3 rebounds and 5.4 points per game.
“I just thought I would step up with the rebounds and I knew my teammates would feed off of me,” Winfrey said. “It feels great (to have a game like this). I feel like it’s been tough for me to work in getting myself back together with my rebounding and scoring being out, but it’s starting to get there.”
Winfrey was faced with being redshirted and lost almost two entire seasons last year when she suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon and underwent two reconstructive knee surgeries. Winfrey worked hard to rehabilitate and earn her time back on the court.
“Jessica Winfrey was just huge on the boards,” Cross said. “We were talking about how important defensive rebounds were. She asked a question and I just told her there were no answers for it. You’ve just got to go get the ball. She went back out and it seemed like she got every rebound from that point.”
Before her injuries, Winfrey was a standout for the Racers in her first season, being named to the All-OVC Newcomer team, starting in all 30 games and being named the OVC Freshman of the Week. She totaled 10 double-doubles in the season, including two back-to-back, and led the team in rebounds.
In the beginning of the season, Winfrey said she was excited to return to the court because she had pent up energy and excitement to see playing time again. With more performances like the one against Eastern Illinois, Winfrey could potentially see more time on the court and a chance to make up for so many lost games.
“Her best basketball is in front of her,” Cross said. “I hope she continues to improve. I hope she keeps that mindset that she has right now.”
Story by Carly Besser, Staff writer.