Crystal Boyd: The road to return
Recovering from an injury is not an easy task. It takes persistence, strength and most importantly, patience.
That is the lesson 5-11 sophomore guard Crystal Boyd is learning, after the McDonald’s High School All-American broke her foot in a bicycle accident on campus this fall. The break forced her to sit out most of preseason and the first six games of the year.
As a team, the Longhorns spent the summer of 2006 working harder than ever to avenge last season’s finish. Boyd was a freshman coming off the bench a year ago. Despite a glowing high school career which saw her earn 2005 State of Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year honors as a senior at basketball powerhouse Parkview High School in Little Rock, the speed and physical nature of the college game limited Boyd to a reserve role.
Off the bench, she averaged 2.6 points and 8.5 minutes per game. Coaches, teammates and fans alike saw great sparks of her talent, and she made an impression against fourth-ranked Connecticut with six points and five rebounds.
After missing the 2006 NCAA Championship, the Longhorns embraced a new agenda for 2006-07. Texas headed to the weight room and practice court with a mission, spending the summer training and working on fundamentals with a new purpose.
Individually, Boyd worked extremely hard during the off-season, with her goal to contend for a starting spot. Basketball assistant strength coach Chris Braden has high praise for Boyd’s work ethic in the off-season, and says, “Crystal is, pound for pound, one of the strongest athletes I’ve ever trained.”
So, all this led to great anticipation for Boyd as the preseason began. After enduring the harsh learning curve as a freshman, however, Crystal was thrown another curve -- her bike accident and subsequent broken foot. That might have given another player an excuse to want to quit.
But, not Boyd. These latest challenges have not deterred her and in fact, have encouraged her to change on and off the court.
“It’s been hard mentally and physically (to come back from the injury) because, physically you are tired, and mentally, you are just trying to push yourself through it and tell yourself you can do this,” said Boyd. “I’m still trying to recover but every day I’m working at it more.”
Although the motivation is coming from within, Boyd is not changing and maturing by herself. She has the support of her teammates and the coaching staff -- particularly assistant coaches Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil, the most decorated players in Texas basketball history, and former UT standout and NBA player Travis Mays.
“The coaches tell me to be patient, but you know me -- I am very impatient and I want results instantly!,” said Boyd, cracking a smile at both the advice and her honest self-assessment. “They tell me to be patient and to push myself a little more each day and I’ll get there. And I listen, because both Coach Travis and Coach Davis have been through it all, right here at Texas.”
While hearing those encouraging words, Boyd admits that it is tough to put into practice. She knows that patience is one of the lessons taught through basketball that will help her in every day life.
“Hearing ‘be patient’ from the coaches is hard to swallow,” Boyd stated. “I’ve always been this way and I’m trying to work on that so I can improve my game and myself overall. Learning patience will help me both on and off the court.”
Yet being on the sidelines -- and learning to stand there with patience -- is paying off for the shooting guard.
While doing her rehab on the sidelines, Boyd watched drills during practice, listening to her coaches and paid attention to the little things that were taking place in front of her.
“Being on the sideline, I was learning the game a little more and understanding what the coaches were telling me,” said Boyd. “When you’re out there playing, the game is moving so fast sometimes. During my rehab, I had the chance to see it all happening from the sideline, and the advice and comments I heard from the coaches to the other players helped my game tremendously.”
Texas head coach Jody Conradt has those very same thoughts.
“We need Crystal back in the lineup with her quickness and her great shooting ability,” noted Conradt. “If there’s a silver lining with her injury, it’s been that Crystal has learned to be a great observer from the sidelines, and has matured in her understanding of what we are doing. It is as if a light has gone off for her, so I expect to see her coming back strong with confidence.”
Although it has been a slow road to recovery, Boyd can see improvement. In two games this year, the 5-11 guard is averaging 3.5 points and nine minutes per game with seven points, four assists and two steals.
“The biggest different between this year and last year is that I understand the game better mentally,” said Boyd. “I have the tools physically to compete, but I have to work on my mental game.”
All the while, the time off the court also meant that Crystal could devote more of her focus to academics as well. With her eye on a future as a music producer -- Boyd writes and performs her own music and her prized possession is the keyboard she has in her dorm room -- Crystal is studying hard as a radio/TV/film (RTF) major.
“Your talent is only going to get you so far, whether it’s basketball talent or music talent. Everyone here is talented. Everyone we play against is talented. You have to continue to work on your game. The people who work the hardest are going to succeed at this level,” she added, knowingly.
“The game has slowed down a little this year for me, and that’s a good sign,” Boyd concluded. “Everything was so fast last year. I was like a deer in headlights. Now, I have learned the system and am now putting it to practice.”