Chanise Jenkins has gone through some difficult times.
The Chicagoan missed all but the end of her junior basketball season at Young after surgery on a torn knee ligament.
She missed all but the first two games of what was to have been her first season at DePaul after surgery on a dislocated tendon in the foot.
As frustrating as that has been, Jenkins still keeps it in perspective.
"You think about all the people who have bigger things to worry about, and you can't really get your head down."
Jenkins learned that first hand. Her older sister, Chavonne, 24, is deaf, yet she played three years on hearing teams at Whitney Young, including the varsity, earned a degree from Olive Harvey and has been the MVP of the Central Basketball Association of the Deaf summer tournament.
In a DePaul English class paper titled, "Deaf … Disability or Discriminated?" Chanise Jenkins used her first-hand observations to realize that the odd reactions from those observing signed speech — murmurs, whispers, stares — were a form of humiliation her sister deals with almost daily.
"She is my inspiration for playing basketball," Chanise Jenkins said.
She kept her heads-up attitude when the injuries made her a basketball observer. She seized the chance to improve her play as a point guard by learning the game from a coach's perspective.
No wonder DePaul Doug Bruno calls Jenkins a "very special manager of a game.
"She understands who has to get the ball and when and where they have to get it," Bruno said. "She understands when to be a facilitator and when to be more aggressive, to try to score."
The 10th-seeded DePaul team that opens its 11th straight year of NCAA tournament play against seventh-seeded Oklahoma State on Sunday in Durham, N.C., has a starting five with two point guards: Jenkins and sophomore Brittany Hrynko of Philadelphia.
Hrynko, who leads the Blue Demons in assists (5.0 per game) and is second in scoring (14.8), has started all but the first two games of her freshman year. Jenkins started all but the first two games of this season, averaging 4.1 assists and 8.1 points.
"It's easier for our team (to have two point guards) because whenever we get a rebound, we can outlet to either one of us and start the break or start the offense," Jenkins said. "Point guards have to be an extension of the coach of the floor, and having two is just a plus."
There have been times when the extension Bruno has in mind for both is something to reel them in after yet another turnover.
"Our guard play can sometimes be very, very … almost brilliant, but it can also be very … I don't want to say decision-less, but it's almost like the freedom I give them sometimes gets taken to abuse," Bruno said.
It hasn't helped that DePaul has missed the team's best player, Anna Martin, and its top reserves, Megan Podkowa and Megan Rogowski, for extended stretches with injuries.
In some ways, Bruno said, that has made cohesiveness even harder than last season, when the team's best player, Keisha Hampton, was lost for good to injury before New Year's Day, and the Blue Demons wound up with just seven able bodies.
"Last year, we knew what we had by Jan. 15 and played with it," Bruno said. "This has been a weird kind of year, with all the different times for injuries."
When Jenkins or Hrynko made a poor choice on a pass, it sometimes owed to lack of familiarity with the intended recipient, so frequently were faces changing in both practices and games. That the entire roster has been available the past couple of weeks leads Jenkins to feel her team could be coming together at just the right time.
"We had to look for what we had," Jenkins said. "We couldn't just feel sorry for ourselves. We had to continue looking forward and putting the pieces together.
"We have a whole team now, and we really have a chance to be great. Not having a full roster the whole year does (still) kind of affect us now, but you can see points in practices and games where we have that connection, where we feel, `Wow, we can really pull this off.'''
They meet an Oklahoma State team that has recovered from recent tragedy.
The Cowgirls lost head coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna when they died in a plane crash during a recruiting trip in November 2011. Four of the team's current starters lived through that situation last season, when they won the NIT.
"They are a bunch of players who have overcome great adversity, so they have to be a strong group," Bruno said.
As Chanise Jenkins understands, there are a lot bigger things to worry about.