Going One-on-One With Taryn Wicijowski

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As the NC-Double-Eh season winds down, so too is the career of one of the best female players of the last four years – Taryn Wicijowski.  We caught up with her to talk about why she chose Utah, the transition from one conference to another, overcoming injuries and her time in Salt Lake City right here …

Regina's Taryn Wicijowski. (PHOTO: Scott Sommerdorf, The Salt Lake Tribune)

Regina’s Taryn Wicijowski. (PHOTO: Scott Sommerdorf, The Salt Lake Tribune)

Regina’s Taryn Wicijowski will go down as one of the best players to have ever worn a Utah Utes uniform. In her career, she was named the Mountain West Conference Rookie of the Year and was also named to the all conference second team. After Utah moved to the PAC-12 Conference three years ago Wicijowski has been named to three all conference honors including a First Team selection in the 2011-12 season. She has consistently been in the top ten in the PAC-12 in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and minutes played and continues the tradition of great Canadian lady ballers in Salt Lake City …

Can Ball Ray:  First off, why did you choose to go to Utah?

Taryn Wicijowski: I went on (recruiting) visits to a bunch of places and I liked the program, I liked the coaches, I liked the school. The biggest thing for me was the family feel of the team, how well the girls got along and how well they genuinely liked each other. Moving away from home I wanted to be on a team with a home-like atmosphere and I felt that here.

Can Ball Ray: In your playing career so far you’ve had the misfortune of having injured your ACL twice. How has it been to deal with being hurt after you were coming off a great season before the injuries?

The first time was devastating because I’ve never been injured before so that was a real test of mental toughness. The second time, I think, was even more devastating. The first time it happened I got through it and I got back to being the player that I wanted to be. But that second time was just even more deflating because I had worked so hard to get back and it just had to happen again. But my coaches and trainers had been so great to me through that.

Regina's Taryn Wicijowski. (PHOTO: Cliff Grassmick)

Regina’s Taryn Wicijowski. (PHOTO: Cliff Grassmick)

Can Ball Ray:  Since you had to overcome injuries twice you’ve been through the rehab process twice too. What was the biggest hurdle for you to overcome from the first to second time around – the mental or physical aspect?

I think it was a combination of both (mental and physical). I mean going through that kind of pain, and once you injure your ACL, you have to learn to do basic movements just to even walk again. Just getting through (all of) that and then mentally it’s just a long, grueling process doing the same things everyday like flexing your quads for a month and a half. It gets tedious and you get bored and you want to go onto the next thing when you’re not allowed to yet. It was kinda hard to get through the first major injury.

The first (time) I only tore my ACL and nothing else and all things considered it was the best possible scenario for an ACL tear. My second time I had a torn meniscus as well and they had to go in and repair that. They did an x-ray and gathered inforamtion from website after the surgery to make sure everything was in place and (they found) the screws from my graft were sitting in the wrong spot. So they had to go back in to make sure the screws were right. (After that) for some reason I had issues straightening my leg so I had to have my leg propped up hyperextended with a weight on my leg to help straighten it out. That was really painful and I would think, “My first one was so easy compared to this one.” It really took its time. Physically that was harder.

Mentally, just having to go through that again. With my first time, I always thought that it would never happen to me because I was always pretty strong. I never had injuries or the warning signs yet it happened. That was obviously hard. For it to happen again, it’s unbelievable. Especially with the team that we had last year, I thought we’d make our run through the PAC-12 and then make it to the NCAA Tournament. Instead I had to sit and watch the team struggle. That was hard for me.

Regina's Taryn Wicijowski. (PHOTO: Douglas C. Pizac-USA Today Sports)

Regina’s Taryn Wicijowski. (PHOTO: Douglas C. Pizac-USA Today Sports)

Can Ball Ray:  Before the big conference realignments that happened three years ago, Utah was in the Mountain West Conference where the program was the top dog and you were one of the top players. How did you find the transition from Mountain West to PAC-12 that first year?

(When we were in the MW) we were like the big fish in the small pond, we had won the conference 8 of 9 years, we had the target on our backs and we were the team going to the NCAA Tournament every year. In the Mountain West, there were some great coaches who were system coaches that could get players in the right spots. Coming to the PAC-12 the athleticism was overwhelming. Every position was bigger, faster, and stronger. Coming from the (other conference) I was a big post player where in the PAC-12 I’m an average sized post player.

Can Ball Ray: So how did you compensate for that difference?

I think I’m strong so I’ve used that but I also had a really good post coach. He’s taught me post defense and on offense he’s taught me how to play players that are as strong as me or taller or are great shot blockers. He’s helped me understand how important doing your work early is, making players catch the ball in places they’re not comfortable with and going from there.

I went to Utah not thinking I was going to get playing time. (My thinking was) I’m going to come in as a freshman, work hard, and I might not get to play much– I was going to try and get as much as I can. It just worked out that I ended up better than I thought I was and I got a lot of playing time and ended up as MW FOY. After all that, I realized I belong here (on the floor). Even after moving conferences I never felt scared and I always felt that this is where I should be.

Can Ball Ray: You’ve had one incredible career as a Ute and will likely go down as one of the best to ever wear a Utah uniform. Looking back, did you ever think you would have career you’ve had at Utah?

When I was 10 or 12, I thought that if I could just play basketball in university it would be the best. As high school went on I remember getting my first letter from a D1 school and remember thinking, “a division 1 school wants me?” I’m from Saskatchewan, we have produced a few basketball players but we’re not a basketball factory; we’re a small pool. To have gotten the interest that I got from schools I was amazed. Getting to college, like I said, I thought maybe I’ll get a little playing time and in sophomore year maybe I can get a starting spot. But my freshman year was an awakening. If you had told me in high school that I’d have this (kind of career) I would never have believed it would have turned out like this.

Can Ball Ray: Now as a senior, what’s been the most memorable part of your time in Utah.

I think that I’ve experienced a lot of adversity, I mean I’ve had the best times of my life and the worst times of my life and I went through it all. I made a decision to come to a school and I made the right one. I met many people that have supported me along the way and I definitely picked the right program to come to. But I think that what I’ve gone through has and will really shape the way I’ll be for the rest of my life. I think that if I would have had a really easy go of it and not had any adversity in my time, just went through and played, I never would have got that life experience – knowing how hard I can push myself, knowing how much stronger I am mentally than I ever thought I could possibly be – those kind of things I think will stick with me for the rest of my life.

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