Eastern New Mexico University’s Tori Northcutt had played basketball for a long time in her young life until her playing career was put on hold on Oct. 30 when she sustained an ACL tear in her right knee in a preseason scrimmage at New Mexico State.
Northcutt, a 2007 Clovis High graduate who helped the Lady Wildcats reach the Class 5A state finals three times in four years with a title in 2005, is now preparing for the second time for her season season at ENMU. The 5-foot-7 point guard is ENMU’s all-time single-game (14) and single-season (169) assist leader, and with 432 assists in three seasons is well within striking range of Stephanie Brockman’s school career record of 461.
How is your recovery from the ACL injury going?
My recovery is going really well. My knee doesn’t bother me doing everyday things and I have even started doing some drills on the court and it doesn’t bother me. Overall, I think I have had a great recovery.
How soon before you are cleared to return to basketball activities, or at least when do you hope to be able to return?
This next week will be six months and I am hoping to hear from our trainers that I can start gradually playing and going up and down. I have started doing more advanced drills and I am just ready to play again.
What have you missed most about playing basketball?
I missed everything about playing basketball! The one thing I missed most was the emotion and excitement of the game and being out on the court with my teammates.
What did you pick up last season by watching the games from the sideline?
Sitting on the sideline gave me a totally different understanding about the game. When you are on the court, you can only see and understand so much, but I had a coach’s eye sitting on the bench. I grew to understand why we did certain things at different points in the game. I also picked up how important it is to have a vocal leader on the floor. It definitely helped me become a better basketball player mentally. While I was on the sideline I was constantly telling myself what I would have done or should have done in certain situations.
Do you think it’ll take much time for you to get back in the swing of things on the court?
I want to say that it won’t take a long time, but I am very grateful that I have two months this summer to start playing a little bit and get back into the groove of things. I think the most important thing to get out of the way this summer is the mental block from the surgery, just becoming comfortable with everything again.
You are 29 assists away from the all-time ENMU women’s career record. What is the significance of that for you?
I think about it from time to time, but it isn’t something that is constantly on my mind. Obviously I will be very excited when I do break that record, but I think one of the coolest things about assists is I am 100 percent relying on my teammate to make a shot. It isn’t just a pass, there are so many components to it. It’s the screen, the shooter getting open, the pass, the catch, and then the make.
What has been the highlight of your ENMU career?
“I can’t really narrow it down to one, but I would have to say being honored as an all-tournament player and an all-(Lone Star) conference player my freshman year and then of course breaking the single-game and season records for assists in the same year.
What area or areas of your game would you like to improve?
The main goal right now is I want to be 100 percent by Oct. 15. I want to be more of an offensive threat to relieve some pressure from our shooters and inside game.
What are your impressions of new Zias coach Lindsey Wilson?
I think coach Wilson is bringing a great philosophy to the Zia program. She wants us to become good citizens and get a great education while we are becoming better basketball players. I love that Coach wants to run the ball and get quick points and that we will play some fullcourt man-to-man defense.
The Zias’ last winning record was in 2006-07, the year before you came to ENMU. What will the team have to do to accomplish that feat this season?
I believe that we have to have the attitude of “We ARE going to the conference tournament” instead of “We want to go to the conference tournament.” I think that pushing the ball and playing a fast-paced game as well as having a tough defense will help us to be very competitive in the LSC.
What is your major, and what are your plans after graduation next spring?
I am majoring in general biology. After graduation, I plan to attend physical therapy school and then someday open up my own practice.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
Most people probably wouldn’t guess that I knew how to drive a tractor by the age of 12, or that I love to bake and want to open up a bakery someday.
— Compiled by Dave Wagner