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12/13/02 Fairport's Fabulous Caitlin ... Patient

Shifting knee keeps Howe out

Duke's freshman from Fairport practices patience during more rehab


By Jim Mandelaro
Democrat and Chronicle

(December 13, 2002) — It was just an exhibition game against a team called Premier Players, but Caitlin Howe could feel the adrenaline pumping through her body.

After two major knee surgeries in high school, the shooting star from Fairport High was living out a dream.

She was playing for Duke University, the No. 1 women’s team in the nation.

And then it happened.

“I got a weird feeling during the game,” the freshman guard said by phone from Durham, N.C. “It was a different feeling than before. I’ve had enough knee injuries to know the difference.”

Howe felt her right knee -- the one twice repaired for torn anterior cruciate ligaments -- begin to shift.

“It started being unstable,” she says. “I played a little in the first half and that was it. I couldn’t play on it.”

That was nearly six weeks ago, and Howe has yet to rejoin the Blue Devils. She rehabs her knee every day, working out for two hours.

She rides the stationary bike, shoots baskets, and cheers her teammates on.

But the most-recruited player in Section V girls basketball history doesn’t take part in scrimmages or games, and no one knows when she will. She tore her ACL in a state quarterfinal her junior year, and tore it again nine months later in the first game of her senior year.

Her comeback was further delayed two months ago, when she tore cartilage in her right knee during a conditioning drill.

Since that first major injury 21 months ago, she has worked hundreds of hours and played about 10 minutes in two games.

In August, Howe underwent strength testing on her leg. After the exhibition game on Nov. 5, she was examined again and learned she had lost 20 percent of the strength in her quad.

“Nobody knows what it is or why I feel this way,” says the two-time All-Greater Rochester Player of the Year, who scored 2,001 career points at Fairport. “It’s just very frustrating.

“If anything, I’ve learned patience from all of this. I’ve had to.”

Howe will not play until at least next month.

“It’s entirely up to Caitlin,” Duke coach Gail Goestenskors says. “Whenever she feels she is ready, we’re ready.”

Howe has begun to consider the possibility of redshirting this season, meaning she would sit out and be considered a freshman (eligibility-wise) next fall.

“It’s getting to the point where I need to start thinking about that,” she says. “If everyone at Duke felt it was the right decision, I’d be fine with it.”

Goestenkors says she is not considering that.

“I think Caitlin can help us,” she says.

The coach admits she is concerned about Howe’s future, however.

“I do worry,” she says. “Any time someone has a knee injury, you worry. I know Caitlin is doing everything she possibly can, but all you can control is what you can control.”

Howe says people have a misconception of her goals and desires.

“I didn’t work every day when I was younger so I could play college basketball,” she says. “I did it because I enjoy every minute on the court: whether it’s doing drills in practice, shooting by myself in the gym or playing in front of 5,000 people.”

She’s thrilled that so many people in Rochester have asked about her, but she has a message for them:

“Don’t feel sorry for me,” she says with a laugh. “I’m coming home for Christmas, and then I’m going with the team to South Padre Island, off the coast of Texas.

“It’s going to be about 85 or 90, and sunny.”

E-mail address: jmand@DemocratandChronicle.com