For over a year, Alicia Garcia had to face the fact that every time she played basketball, a swollen knee was likely to follow.
That battle came to an end last Thursday, as the Muscatine junior had reconstructive knee surgery in Iowa City. The recovery timetable for the Muskie standout is six-to-eight months, making it unlikely at best that the Northern Iowa commit plays in the 2019-20 season.
“It just doesn’t make sense to push a kid for the last two weeks of the season,” Muscatine girls basketball coach Susan Orvis said. “I think we’re very realistic about not having her for the season. We don’t want to rule it out completely, but I think we’re very realistic that’s probably the case.
“We’re thankful she’s in a position where she had a good procedure, and we can work on getting her healed and healthy.”
The 6-foot Muskie junior led the team in scoring at 11.2 points per game as a sophomore. Even if she can’t play as a junior, Garcia says she’s excited to be around and “help in any way I can,” from the sidelines.
Garcia’s knee issues began when she dislocated her kneecap in her freshman track season. They persisted during her sophomore basketball season and finally hit a point last month where junior knew she had to consider all options.
Still, hearing the news she would be sidelined longer than she ever had in her life wasn’t easy.
“I remember the first appointment I went to, and (the doctor) talked about surgery being the main thing to do,” Garcia said. “I cried right there. I didn’t think it was that big of an issue with my knee. It was a tough thing to take in and realize how long I was going to be out.”
Garcia had reconstructive surgery to resolve nagging patella issues. She had a hole in the middle of her kneecap, and there were a lot of chipped pieces of bone inside the kneecap in addition to damaged tissue.
As a result, Dr. Brian Wolf of Iowa City had to re-position Garcia’s tibia. That required breaking the bone and positioning it in a better spot using three titanium screws that Garcia will forever have in her knee.
“My kneecap was getting worse every day,” Garcia said. “If I didn’t get the surgery there would have been no way for me to play basketball and not get hurt even more.”
After the injury during her freshman track season, Garcia had to stretch and ice her knee often as it would swell up “doing the littlest things,” according to the junior.
Wolf, one of the assistant coaches for a younger team in the Martin Brothers AAU program that Garcia plays for, recommended she come in to get her knee looked at about six weeks ago when she was sidelined at practice with discomfort.
“(She) started to have ups and downs of some swelling, some discomfort to the point where it wasn’t going to heal on its own,” Orvis said. “We felt better to get a better look at it, and just looked at the long-term picture and realized we had to take some corrective measure.”
The hope within the Muscatine program is Garcia comes back 100% healthy; even if that means there’s a good chance she doesn’t play in the upcoming season.
What does that mean for Muscatine?
Excluding Garcia, the Muskies return three of their top five scorers, led by junior guard Zoey Long. Although Garcia’s absence is a big one, Orvis feels comfortable in a team suddenly filled with upperclassmen and experience in her system.
“I don’t think we need to revamp everything,” Orvis said. “I like the direction we’re going, our kids have been in the system for two or three years. (Garcia) is an important player in our system, but at the same time, we have a team system.
“We’re going to have to tweak some things. We’re always trying to find a way to open it up with this group simply because our inside and outside kids can handle it. We have the benefit of knowing now instead of running into something midseason.”