Lennox’s final season not everything it looked like


Dillan Schorfheide

Eastern point guard Grace Lennox drives the basket in her final game as a Panther against Tennessee Tech on March 2. Lennox scored eight points and played 39 minutes in the loss.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

Eastern point guard Grace Lennox’s final game as a Panther looked, on the surface at least, like the exact type of game of performance that had come to be expected of Lennox over her five seasons at Eastern.

The redshirt-senior had made a name for herself as a high-motor player, who rarely took a minute, much less a play, off in a game.

Lennox logged 39 minutes in her final appearance as a Panther against Tennessee Tech on Mar. 2, in yet another display of eyebrow-raising endurance and tenacity on the court.

Countless times in her career Lennox has logged games of 39 minutes, and sometimes full 40-minute games where she never saw the bench. On paper, Lennox’s 39-minute, eight-point performance mirrored so many others she had put together in her career.

But this one was one was different, and not just because it was Lennox’s last game playing for Eastern.

This game was different because Lennox, Eastern’s iron-horse, vocal team leader, was playing through pain.

In fact, Lennox, unbeknownst to anyone that would look solely at her stats, has been playing through pain for the entirety of her final season at Eastern.

In December of 2017 Lennox, eight games into what would have been her true senior season, noticed that her knee was beginning to bother her. That “bother” was in fact a high meniscal tear in her knee, one that would require surgery and knock her out for the remainder of that season.

Lennox returned for her redshirt-senior season, scored 22 points in her first game back from injury and appeared to be back to her old self.

But under the surface everything was not the same. Lennox’s knee still hampered her on the basketball court to the point where she was not practicing anymore.

“This year was a real struggle for me because of my body. I ended up stopping practice in early December I think,” Lennox said. “So I haven’t been practicing, so that has been tough when you don’t practice at all because your body can’t handle it, and you have to work through it, and you have to try to do what you used to do, and it’s been a real struggle for me. But I have had to try and adapt. I just kept focus, for me was on defense and just try to be the best defender that I can be.”

The setting aside of any potential pro career and future in basketball is what really stings Lennox, however, and even brought her to tears in her final press conference.

Playing basketball after college has always been a goal for Lennox, but the pain in her knee has become too much, and Lennox has decided that she has played her final basketball game.

But on her last day in a Panther uniform, Lennox was doing more reflecting on her past five years at Eastern rather than focusing on what the future held for her.

Lennox came to the program from Hobart, Tasmania and quickly earned the trust of her teammates and then-head-coach Debbie Black, as she started in all 30 games her freshman season.

As she sat at the podium after the Tennessee Tech game on Mar. 2, with fellow senior Carmen Tellez, Halle Stull and fifth-year Jalisha Smith, Lennox could not help but get a little emotional when talking about her five seasons at Eastern.

“Juice (Jalisha) and I have been through a lot of changes since we came into this program,” Lennox said. “It’s been a long process, there’s been a lot of ups and downs. But every single team member that has came in I have made a connection with, and I think that’s really special. I hope to keep those connections, with the coaching staff as well and just the whole program has been excellent for me. It’s matured me a lot. Living away from home has been exceptional to learn and grow, so I am definitely going to miss the program and miss my teammates and the coaches.”

When asked about Lennox, Tellez and Smith were both brought to tears as well. “Tough” is the description Tellez was able to mutter before succumbing to putting her head down.

“I think she has a lot of heart … she’s not going to give up,” Smith added.

Head coach Matt Bollant was able to get out the longest answer regarding Lennox’s career.

“I think just the toughness that she has showed, there is a lot of kids that struggle to play well and don’t play defense when they’re in pain, and she did those things extremely well. Played with great energy and great fight,” Bollant said. “I think most of the fans, they probably have no idea that she is in pain as hard as she played and as well as she played.”

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]