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Injuries aside, Graettinger thankful for what game has given
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Injuries aside, Graettinger thankful for what game has given

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Sometimes, you have to go with what life brings. Sometimes, you have to do it twice.

As the college basketball season sprints toward the finish line, life isn’t allowing Muscatine graduate Annabel Graettinger to run at any speed right now.

Graettinger, a senior at Western Illinois University, suffered a torn ACL in December during the Leatherneacks’ first conference game of the season. It was the second such injury of her basketball career.

The injury prematurely ended Graettinger’s college career, but the senior is still trying to contribute anyway she can as the Leathernecks begin the Summit League tournament play on Sunday when they take on Oral Roberts in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“I’m in the process of getting out of my brace,” Graettinger said, “(and) learning how to walk again.”

Graettinger’s college basketball experience has been a memorable journey.

The former Muskie standout first enrolled at South Dakota State University. As a redshirt freshman there, she appeared in 10 games, highlighted sinking a 3-pointer against Oral Roberts.

Following that season, Graettinger decided to transfer to WIU, which required her to sit out the 2017-18 season.

As a Leatherneck, she played in 41 games (all as a starter) and averaged 12.7 points and 2.7 assists per game.

The early college years were quite the departure from all the successes she had as a Muskie.

As a senior, she scored 20.2 points per game. That was the second-best mark in the Mississippi Athletic Conference, behind only Davenport West freshman Chrislyn Carr. Carr has since gone on to Texas Tech, where she won Big 12 Freshman of the Year last season.

Before that, she was a part of the Muskie squad that made it to state to cap off the 2012-13 season.

Graettinger was a sophomore then, but was Muscatine's fourth most prolific scorer on a team that featured Emily Wieskamp (nee Clemens), who went on to have a remarkable career as a Leatherneck as well as Leti Lerma, who had her own prolific career at Bradley.

“Muscatine is where it all started,” she said. “(The city) will always hold a special place in my heart, it’s where I started to have these dreams. I couldn’t have asked for a better role model and advocate than coach (Susan) Orvis. It’s cool to come from a community where I have such a great support system.”

However, fate has a strange sense of humor.

Because Graettinger’s basketball career will end similar to how it started since the summer going into her freshman year of high school was when her first knee injury occurred.

“It’s kind of unfortunate that I know how (knee injury recoveries) go,” she said. “But it's been helpful to have that experience under my belt.

“Being a senior, you’re kind of place in the position (to be a team leader) anyway, but the injury has definitely changed my perspective. I think that I can be a different voice. This is my fifth year of college basketball, so I feel like I’ve been around the game (and the conference) a lot … I’ve just tried to be as involved in the team as I can … whatever I can do to help the team. Sometimes that just means being a friend.”

Though Graettinger will focus all her positive energy toward her teammates in the league tournament, she’s already set some new goals for life after basketball.

Graettinger recently decided that she will attend Indiana University and enroll in optometry school there next year.

For Graettinger, basketball has given and taken away. But now, as she’s forced to watch her team’s final games from the sideline, it’s the big-picture things the game produced that stick out as she reflects on her career.

“All the relationships I’ve built,” said Graettinger. "I had some tough breaks with injuries and redshirting after transferring. So I’m most proud of the journey … that I stuck it out until the end. Young girls dream of playing at this level.

“I got to live my dream for five years, I got to go to two great universities. The number of friendships I have and the people who have been here for me, almost all of them I met through basketball. I’m not going to remember how many points I scored in this game or that game, but I’ll always remember the people. That’s what got me through a difficult time recently.”

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