Rachel Knoll is getting a second chance to play basketball and she plans to enjoy every minute of it.
“I didn’t think I was ever going to play again,” said Knoll, who sustained a back injury in the Princess Margaret Secondary bus crash in 2011.
The former Mustangs captain and team MVP will suit up for the UBC-O Heat women’s team.s
Knoll, a fourth-year student at UBC-O, thought the game she loved was taken away from her. The return trip from Kelowna, in which the bus transporting 14 students and a teacher was in a head-on collision, changed Knoll’s life as she went from being an active person to not playing anything.
“It was kind of weird for me,” said Knoll, who is stronger from the experience, which at the time, she thought the crash was going to claim her life. “My dream was to play basketball. It was my life and something I was so passionate about and to lose it, you realize you can still have a life. You are still the same person without that. It was a huge thing for me. It took a while to come to acceptance with it all.”
Knoll devoted time to finding that person without basketball and had given up on playing again.
“That’s why it’s so cool that I get to play again,” said Knoll, who averaged 21 points per game with the Mustangs.
Knoll, who has worked with kinesiologists, reached out to Heat coach Heather Semeniuk after learning that the team was in need of players with size. Being six-foot-two, Knoll fits the bill.
“I’m so excited about it. I still can’t believe its happening,” she said. “I hope I will be good.”
With the Mustangs, Knoll didn’t play like a traditional post and took advantage of her speed and athletic ability to drive to the basket and finish. She is curious to see how her skills will be against other players who haven’t been away from the game. She has some nerves and has practiced with her former coaches, who say she is just as good as she ever was. That gives her confidence.
“It’s a big jump usually from high school to college,” she said.
Semeniuk is excited about the possibilities with Knoll, who is keen.
“She came with a strong desire to get back into it,” said Semeniuk.