U SPORTS GOLDEN SERIES: Four Ottawa female student-athletes won U Sports championships in three different sports during the 2021-22 university varsity season. Their stories will be presented here this week. Here is Part 4 of 4:
By Martin Cleary
The rollercoaster ride is about to stop for Marin Scotten. The wheels will come to a complete halt the day she has surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament at the end of July.
Once she departs the operating room and begins her athletic rehab, she can put closure on her university women’s basketball career, which has delivered her a series of celebratory highs and crushing lows, including the upcoming hospital visit.
The lows can be attributed to a devastating ACL tear four months ago, minor foot injuries mid-way through last season and debating whether to return for a final year, after graduating from Ryerson University in 2020-21, an academic year with no basketball because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The highs involved being part of one of the best women’s university teams in the country for her last three seasons, being named to all-star teams and playing a sport she loves. But her greatest moment arrived when Ryerson, which has since been renamed Metropolitan Toronto University, posted an undefeated regular season and playoff record to win the Ontario and Canadian university championships.
As happy as the starting, five-foot, 11-inch shooting guard was with two significant medals around her neck, she would have found it much more satisfying if she was able to play more than a total of five minutes in the OUA provincial championship game and the three U Sports national championship tournament games.
Scotten’s 2021-22 OUA regular season was moving right along quite smoothly as she started nine of the Rams’ first 10 games. In her ninth game, she struck for a season-high 27 points, including five three-pointers, in only 20 minutes during a lopsided win over the University of Toronto.
But in the rematch three days later, Scotten had five points, three steals and two rebounds before she tore her ACL in the 13th minute and left the game. Essentially, it was her final game of her final season as she became a team supporter on the bench for the last four regular season games and six playoff matches.
“My four years were filled with ups and downs and, honestly, not what I expected,” Scotten wrote in an email interview, while she was on vacation in Europe. “Playing a university sport for four years is very challenging emotionally and physically, but also the best thing I’ve ever done.
“Though some of my time was rocky, overall my four years playing at Ryerson shaped me into who I am today. I’ve made so many amazing memories, got to play a sport I love every day and most of all have met the most incredible people that I know will be in my life forever.
“I’m so grateful to have been surrounded by such supportive coaches and teammates throughout my years. And, yes of course, it was amazing to top it all off with a national championship, which is why I wanted to go to Ryerson in the first place.”
Scotten had deep roots in the Ottawa basketball community – Gloucester-Cumberland Basketball Association, Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School and the Ottawa Nationals JUEL program – before committing in 2017 to Ryerson, which made its first two U Sports national championship tournament appearances in 2015 and 2016.
Basketball was a big part of her family life. The basketball hoop in the driveway was in constant use, her brother played the game and her father Mike coached her in her early years. Mike Scotten also was a six-foot, five-inch forward for Queen’s University from 1984-89, a four-time OUA all-star and the OUA East men’s MVP in 1987-88.
Scotten bought into the Ryerson women’s basketball program because of its coaches, players and training environment. It allowed her to experience a four-year career record of 86-33, win the 2022 OUA title and be a finalist in 2021, and qualify for three U Sports nationals.
Helping the Rams register an undefeated 20-0 season in 2021-22 was one thing for Scotten, but watching how it played out for her was a totally different experience.
“Despite going undefeated, my personal season was very unexpected and challenging. (Before) this year, I was unsure whether I would even return for my last year as I had already graduated (B.A. in journalism) and thought I was ready to move on from basketball,” Scotten added.
“When I did return, it was a little difficult to adjust to training again, after taking (more than) a year off due to COVID. I struggled with some minor injuries (foot stress fractures) in the early half of the season that were pretty frustrating.
“But it was still so much fun to be back out there with my teammates, especially such a skilled team like this one.”
The Christmas break and a two-month league shutdown because of the pandemic allowed her to deal with her foot ailments. She felt healthy and healed when the season resumed Feb. 9., much like her first three non-injury seasons.
“Four games into the second half of the season, I actually tore my ACL in a game against U. of T (Feb. 19). Honestly, this was absolutely devastating for me and I really struggled to accept it,” Scotten continued.
“As a basketball player, tearing my ACL had always been one of my biggest fears because it is such a long and gruelling recovery. It was difficult to accept that this happened in my last six weeks playing basketball, especially being on such a good team.”
But Scotten wasn’t convinced her season was finished as a player. She worked with the Rams’ athletic therapy team as well as her coaches and teammates. Five weeks after her injury, she was declared fit to play her first game, which was the OUA final against Brock.
“I actually felt pretty normal for those few minutes I played in the OUA final. But I tried to go for a steal at one point and stopped too abruptly, which kind of sprained my knee all over again,” Scott explained. “I wasn’t cleared to play at nationals, unless it was the last few minutes of the final.”
Scotten only played three minutes (one three-pointer and one rebound) in the OUA final, but she was involved in one of the team’s greatest comebacks. The Rams rallied from a 22-point deficit with seven minutes left in the fourth game to tie the game 67-67 and win 72-70 in overtime.
“So personally, this year was very unexpected, but I am so proud of all that our team accomplished and the way everyone stepped up in the latter half of the season,” Scotten wrote.
When it came time for the U Sports championship tournament at Queen’s, Scotten played a few seconds in a one-sided, quarterfinal win over University of Prince Edward Island, watched the entire overtime, semifinal win against Brock from the bench, but played three minutes in the championship final win over the University of Winnipeg.
“Winning the OUA and U Sports championships were the most incredible feelings, even though personally it was not in the way I had pictured,” Scotten wrote. “Nonetheless, the way our team stepped up to get the job done was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, especially in the comeback against Brock in the OUA final.
“I had dreamed of both moments so many times for five years and to watch it happen in real life was surreal. I feel very lucky to have stepped on the floor in both games, even if it was just for a few minutes. Each person on our team has been through so many individual battles, but we all kind of came together this year and committed ourselves to doing something special.”
Scotten found it difficult to sit on the bench and watch the final four regular-season games and six playoff games unfold. But she fully supported and praised the work of her teammates, which includes fellow Ottawa native Eve Uwayesu.
“It was so cool to watch different people step up once I got hurt and watch my teammates play some of the best basketball I’ve ever seen,” added Scotten. “There are so many people on my team who have been through horrible injuries, including ACL tears, so to see everyone playing healthy and at full force was just a joy to watch.
“I’m also grateful I was able to get back to the court at all, because there were many times when it seemed I would be out for the rest of the season.”
In her first three seasons, Scotten was a reliable three-point shooter (averaging almost 13.3 points a game) and critical to the Rams’ transition game. But in her rollercoaster final season following an up-and-down experience in the 2020-21 non-season, Scotten merely wanted to play hard when she could and build the confidence of her teammates.
“The reason I came to Ryerson was to win a championship and to do it in my last year feels even sweeter. I’m so happy that we got to do this for our coach Carly (Clarke), who is the hardest working and most deserving coach there is.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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