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Jess Hurd – A Journey.

As the Wildcats prepare for their second game of the season, away at Caledonia Pride, former Wildcats stalwart Jess Hurd will sadly not be making the trip. Jess announced prior to the start of the season her retirement from basketball due to injury. Here she shares her memories, experiences and highs and lows of her times in basketball.

Upon retiring I’d like to share with you my journey through basketball…so here goes! I started playing the sport when I was 10 years old after starting middle school. I was approached by the basketball coach while playing netball and decided to give it a go. Since that first training session, I never looked back. Mandy Payne used to coach at my school and she invited me to play at Leicester Cannons, where I played for the U14, U16 and U18 teams at only 12 years old.

From here I was chosen to represent U16 East Midlands at Lilleshall, where I met Pauline Prior. She was keen to coach me at Wildcats and there were a lot more progression opportunities at Wildcats. So I made the decision to make the move from Leicester to Nottingham, something I have never regretted.

I was 14 when I moved to Wildcats and shortly after being there under the coaching of Pauline I was invited to England U16 training camp. I was successful in the build up to the European Championships and went on to represent England at 15 years old, in Italy. The following year, while playing in France in the final against the Netherlands, I tore my ACL. I missed a season but it took me exactly 6 months post op to come back fighting and ready for the next chapter of my basketball career.

I was now playing U18, Division 2 and getting experience in training with the Division 1 women. I made the U18 England team for two consecutive years and played in Israel and Hungary.

During my time at Wildcats, I became determined to get a scholarship to study and play basketball in America. As a team, we visited Siobhan Prior at Loyola and this made my motivation and determination grow even stronger. When I was 17, I visited Franklin Pierce University on an official visit and fell in love with the campus. On my 18th birthday I signed my contract and the following August, after playing for England in Hungary, I flew to America to fulfil my dream.

I studied Sports and Recreational Management and graduated with High Honours. While at Franklin Pierce, I won’t lie; there were many ups and downs. I didn’t play much during my first two years and this hurt my self-confidence, but I kept soldiering on. In the summer of 2011 and 2012 I represented Great Britain in the U20 teams in Serbia and Hungary, this was such a huge confidence boost and made me incredibly proud.

Come my Junior year, it was my time to shine…until I broke my ankle in a training session shortly after our first pre-season friendly. This knocked me back until just before Christmas of the 2012-13 season. I played in the last game before winter break and felt confident looking forward to the second half of the season. After returning to the States after a week at home for Christmas, I met my team at the airport ready to travel to New Orleans for a New Year’s Tournament. Ten minutes into the first training session back, I went down with a knee injury. I attempted to play in the game the following day but my knee had swollen to the size of a small football. The day after we returned from the best New Year’s Eve I’ve ever experienced.

I had a scan and it was found that I had torn my ACL and meniscus again. Same knee, 4 years later. I was devastated! I had surgery in America but I wasn’t to make such a speedy recovery this time around. It took me a lot of time to become game ready, I had many problems with my knee post-op and this slowed me down immensely. Due to only playing one game for the whole season, I was able to red-shirt. I decided to study my Masters at Franklin Pierce on an accelerated course; this enabled me to continue playing there for one more year. My 5th year was absolutely my best playing year, I had recovered fully after a slow Senior year, and I was ready to make an impact and enjoy my final year.

I would never change a thing, I made life-long friends at college and for the majority of time I loved it. We made so many memories and Franklin Pierce will always have a special place in my heart.

On return to England in 2015, I took a short break to give my body a rest. College takes it out of you! You practice almost every day from September in pre-season training, all the way through to March or April in post-season playoffs. It is a very long season but it is such an amazing experience.

In December 2015, Dave Greenaway contacted me (again) asking one more time if I wanted to play for the WBBL team at Wildcats. I had given my body enough rest and I was ready to get back on the court, I missed it too much! I went home to Wildcats after Christmas and loved it. We were national champions and made it to the finals at the O2 Arena, an experience I will never forget. I planned to stay for the whole season of 2016-17 but by Christmas, my body was telling me to stop. I had a foot injury (still no idea what it was, MRI results were inconclusive, but I physically couldn’t play because of the pain). It was a very tough decision.

I rang Chris Prior and explained my decision with tears in my eyes, and I rang Dave too, still crying. Wildcats have always been a home for me in my basketball journey and this wasn’t the way I wanted to end my career. Nevertheless, I had made my decision and went in to say goodbye to the team.

Retired life isn’t too bad once you get used to it. I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped me meet my potential, fulfil my dreams, and continue to fall in love with the game of basketball. You all know who you are; fellow players, coaches, physios and other staff. Not forgetting my amazing parents who have always supported me to be the best I can be, the families I have met along the way, and the wonderful friends I have gained through such a fun-filled sport. THANK YOU!!

 

Thanks to Jess for sharing this.  You will be sorely missed.

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