It seems strange to talk about a comeback for someone who is only 22 years old, but for McMaster women’s basketball player Jaklynn Nimec this season has seen her revive a varsity career that seemed over.
She arrived in 2009 as a highly touted recruit from Hamilton’s Saltfleet high school. In her first season she was named to the Ontario University Athletics all-rookie team and she got to play in the national championship tournament that was hosted at McMaster.
Her second-year in maroon cemented her as a starter as she doubled her scoring output. Nimec looked poised to become a player that would challenge for league all-star status. Her future looked very bright.
But during her third-year things started to go off the rails for Nimec: Expected to be a prime scoring threat, her production dropped way off. She seemed sluggish and had a hard time maintaining her fitness. The strength she had gained over her first two years seemed to vanish. She was finally diagnosed with mononucliosis, which explained the listlessness she displayed.
The physical demands of playing a varsity sport made her lack of strength and energy more noticeable and so she had to shut things down, midway through the year for rest and recover. She ended her third season on the bench in street clothes.
The process to get healthy turned out to be longer than expected but Nimec, along with her coaches and teammates, thought she would return to the court in the fall of 2012, ready to pull on her No. 8 jersey.
But the long recovery had robbed her of much of her fitness and she was unable to keep up when the team held its fall tryouts. She was a shell of the player she had been before getting sick.
The decision was made that she wasn’t ready to play, but would stay with the team in a support role until she was. What was unexpected was another bout of mono in the fall of that year which pretty well guaranteed her senior season would be lost. A disappointment for all involved and likely the end of her varsity career.
But gradually feeling better as she completed her fourth-year, Nimec started to join her teammates for off-season scrimmages and while there was some rust to shake off, she wasn’t feeling sick anymore and more importantly, discovered she was still hungry to play.
With a year left to complete her double major of honours communication studies and political science, Nimec decided to try again.
Working hard to regain most of what she had lost, Nimec earned her spot on the Marauder team and moved back into the starting line-up.
Getting back in stride has been a process for Nimec, but she has shown flashes of the talent that marauder fans saw early in her career.
The Marauders have been on the periphery of the national rankings this year and the team believes it has a legitimate chance to qualify for the national tournament being hosted at Windsor in March.
After all she has gone through, that would be a storybook finish for Nimec, who played in the nationals as a raw rookie. She and her teammates took the first playoff step on Wednesday night when they defeated the Lakehead Thunderwolves in a quarter-final game.