The Wolfpacker

March 2012

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 59 of 95

spirits, quickly." It's a word that NC State women's bas- W ketball head coach Kellie Harper uses often to describe a trait she values in her play- ers: their ability to overcome adversity and "bounce back" from a disappointment with an effort that embodies the never-give-up attitude that's the foundation of the Wolf- pack women's program. For the last five seasons, the living em- bodiment of that attitude has been wearing number 11 for NC State, a player that, as of Feb. 19, has played just 75 games for her career — and who, this season, is enjoy- ing only her second full year of action on the hardwood since joining the program in 2007. BY BRIAN RAPP ebster's defines resilience as "the ability to bounce or spring back into shape, position, etc.; the ability to recover strength, games — between 2007-09, and the final 18 games of the 2010-11 season. Through NC State's game at North Caro- lina Feb. 19, Tasler had played one full season (2009-10, as a redshirt sophomore), 13 games last year, and all 28 games to date this season in her first, and only, year as a starter. Over the past decade, several Pack play- ers, most recently 2006 graduate Rachel Stockdale (now an assistant coach at Wake Forest) and Tasler's classmate Halteman, have hung up their sneakers because of recurring injuries. But despite the hospital visits, painful rehab sessions and hours watching in the wings while her teammates battled on the court, giving up basketball has never been a choice Tasler seriously considered. "It may seem crazy, but quitting never, THE COMEBACK KID ever occurred to me," she said. "For a while, it was a pattern: surgery, then rehab; Many Setbacks, But Has Always Kept Fighting Guard Emili Tasler Has Suffered There have been many players who have overcome injuries in the Pack's 37-year history, but no player in recent memory has had to climb over the mountain of obstacles that has confronted fifth-year senior guard Emili Tasler. The only backcourt player recruited by Kay Yow in the five-member class of 2007, which included guard Tia Bell, forward Brittany Strachan and centers Hanna Halte- man and Gloria Brown, Tasler saw her run of untimely injuries began in her senior year at Apex (N.C.) High School, even be- fore she put on an NC State uniform. "It was actually right here [at Reynolds Coliseum], on Dec. 27, 2006," she recalled. "We were playing in the GlaxoSmithCline Christmas Tournament, and I tore my ACL." Between that first setback, five years ago, and this season, the youngest daughter of Rich and Teri Tasler has undergone five separate operations on that damaged joint to repair, in order, an initial ACL tear, a torn meniscus, a second operation on the meniscus, a procedure to relieve "compart- ment syndrome" in her left calf and an op- eration in early 2011 to replace a blocked popliteal artery between her knee and calf. Those surgeries and resulting rehab peri- ods cost Tasler all of what would have been her freshmen and sophomore seasons — 64 60 ■ THE WOLFPACKER more surgery, another rehab … the same thing, over and over. "I talked to my family, and they said, 'You know, if you want to quit, it's okay.' But I was like, 'No! I'm not gonna quit.' People have asked me all the time if I ever thought about it — but I just love the game too much." It's a mindset that Harper herself can personally relate to. "I had three surgeries in two years [dur- ing her playing career at Tennessee]," the Pack's coach said, "and it never would have crossed my mind to give up basketball. She's seen every injury as just another day to get through." And having overcome so much herself to become an All-American for the Volun- teers, Harper can also relate to the intensity she now sees in Tasler's play. "It's obvious, when you watch Emili, that she enjoys the game so much," Harper said. "She gives you everything she's got when she's on the floor, and I think that comes from the passion she has for bas- ketball — and the fact that with all the disappointments she's had because of her injuries, she wants so badly to play and contribute." Basketball has been Tasler's passion ever since her father gave her a choice, back in second grade in her hometown of Prairie Valley High School in Iowa, Tasler arrived in North Carolina when her moth- er's work and desire to be closer to family brought her to the Triangle. She started her final three seasons at Apex, helping lead the Cougars to the Class 4-A state finals as a junior in 2006, where they lost to South Mecklenburg and future Duke rival Joy Cheek. By then, Tasler was already a future Wolfpacker, having verbally committed in the fall of 2005, prior to her junior year. Having been named an all-conference guard after averaging 11 points, six re- bounds and five assists in Apex's 28-2 sea- son, Tasler began her senior year with a lot of expectation — only to have those high hopes shattered two days after Christmas with the first serious injury of her life. "Before that ACL tear, the only other in- jury I'd had was breaking the growth plate in my ankle in eighth grade and spraining my ankles a few times," she said. She entered NC State in 2007 hoping rehab sessions over the summer would al- low her to play. "But my knee just didn't feel right, and it gave out on me again over the summer," Tasler has undergone five separate operations in the last five years, but quitting was never an option for the fifth-year senior. PHOTO BY ROB BRADLEY Gowrie, Iowa — continue dance lessons, or check out a summer basketball camp, even though she was actually too young to participate. "I just didn't like dancing that much," she admitted. "I'd always liked sports because I'd go to every event my older brother and sister played in, and I also played softball and ran cross country and track in high school." With her mother's relatives living in North Carolina, Tasler used to take sum- mer vacations in the area — and began at- tending Yow's summer camps at NC State. "I started coming her in sixth grade, and [former NC State assistant coach] Stepha- nie Glance told me when I was in eighth grade to keep coming because they were getting interested in me. But then I didn't come the next two years, until we moved from Iowa to Apex." After playing one year of varsity ball for

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