Iowa senior forward Johanna Solverson probably didn't envision earning her current nickname for another few decades.
But two torn ACLs and her current status as a rare six-year college athlete has done the trick.
Solverson likely wasn't as chipper during the two years she spent rehabilitating her troublesome right knee. After three injury-free seasons, her run of bad luck began in the summer of 2005 while playing in a pickup game with other counselors at a camp run by DePaul head coach Doug Bruno.
"I just stepped on it wrong and my knee gave out," she recalled. "I knew something was wrong right away. I fell to the ground pretty quickly."
The injury meant Solverson's senior season would have to wait. By the next summer, Solverson had been cleared medically to resume full basketball activities. So she felt confident enough to take part in the Gametime League, an Iowa-based event comprised of Hawkeye teammates and other local college players.
That's when she tore her ACL again.
"I thought to myself, 'You've got to be kidding,' " she said. "My friends and family gave me the weekend to sulk but then I had to put it behind me."
The second injury occurred early enough in the summer that she was close to 100 percent by December. She intended to join the team for the second half of Iowa's season when some minor problems cropped up in the knee, including an infection.
Shortly thereafter, she decided to petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility. Her coaches felt confident in her chances because she hadn't played in any games during her absence, but it was a gamble nonetheless. And the fact that the petition was filed around Christmas and an answer didn't come until May led to some anxious moments.
"I had my fingers crossed that whole time," she said. "My career could have been over."
Luckily for Solverson and the Hawkeyes, her career still isn't over. After wading through a carefully planned summer of 2007 that included no scrimmaging and only individual work, she got the green light to go full speed once practice began in October.
There haven't been any setbacks and Solverson is one of the main reasons Iowa (18-9, 11-5 in conference) is one of the surprise success stories of the Big Ten season. After losing three of their first five conference games, the Hawkeyes, 14-16 overall a year ago, reeled off eight straight wins to take over first place. They've dropped decisions at Purdue and Ohio State to interrupt the streak and enter this week a half-game behind the Buckeyes.
Solverson has re-assumed the starting role in the frontcourt that she occupied since her freshman year. The 9.3 points per game she's averaging this year rank favorably with the numbers she had as a junior, so it would appear that she didn't miss a beat.
But not playing competitively for such a long span wasn't easy, though Solverson made the most of her time off.
"Sitting out really helped in allowing me to see things differently that were happening on the court," she said. "Coaches would talk to me more and it was almost like I was studying film for the two years. I felt by myself, though. But once this season started, I realized I fit right back in."
Immediately after arriving at Iowa, Solverson was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team and finished third on the squad in scoring (8.6 points per game). As a junior three years ago, she became only the second Iowa player to amass over 350 points, 125 assists and rebounds and 70 steals in a single season as the team advanced to the semifinals of the WNIT.
She's been playing particularly well of late. She was named the Big Ten's co-Player of the Week Feb. 11 after eclipsing the 1,000-point plateau for her career and averaging 17 points, 6.5 rebounds and six assists in wins over Michigan State and Penn State. She also had a season-high 20 points and six assists in Iowa's 72-69 win over Minnesota Feb. 17 and had 10 points, five rebounds and five assists in the loss to Ohio State last Thursday.
Regardless of how Iowa finishes in the Big Ten, an NCAA Tournament bid is almost a certainty. After that run ends, Solverson will leave Iowa two years after she had planned with two knee surgeries and two degrees to show for it.
Keeping up with ... Lake Zurich's Johanna Solverson
ChicagoSports.com follows local high school athletes who have kept up their game after graduation
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