NEELYVILLE, Mo. — For the third time in the last two years, a Neelyville girls basketball player has signed to play at the collegiate level.
This time, Autumn Dodd added her name to that list, joining J’Kayla Fowler and Jentri Worley.
Dodd was a key piece in Neelyville’s state championship run during the 2017-18 season. This year, though, she missed the entire season after she tore her ACL in September. Her goal coming back from injury is to prove she can still play and redeem herself, making up for the time she lost during the recovery process.
“It’s been super painful to just sit there and watch when, like those intense games that you want to be out there playing, you just have to sit there and watch and support your team,” Dodd said. “It’s stressful, but you’ve just gotta go through it.”
Even with a year missed from the injury, she said the work she’s put in on the court has paid off with the offer she got from Three Rivers.
Along with a good offer to come play for the Lady Raiders, Dodd said going to Three Rivers will give her a chance to stay close to home and figure out what she wants to do in the future. Right now, she plans on getting her general requirements completed at Three Rivers and hopes to transfer somewhere after her initial two years.
Missing an entire season with the ACL injury has given Dodd time to observe the game from a different perspective, one other than the one she knew from her time on the court.
“I feel like I appreciate things more; that’s the first thing,” she said. “Secondly, I kind of know the game a little bit more because I’ve been watching a lot instead of playing. I don’t know, you just see different things when you’re not playing on the court.”
Three Rivers coach Jeff Walk knows the motivation that’ll come with signing a player who has battled the adversity Dodd has faced for the last six months.
“It opens their eyes to a lot of stuff that goes on out on the floor and what it feels like to sit on the sideline not able to play. So they’re always ready and willing to do whatever it takes to get back to where they were before,” Walk said.
When Dodd is on the court, Walk said she brings the threat of a solid shooter and someone who can get to the basket whenever she wants. For Neelyville coach Becky Hale, she’s been that and much more.
“She’s a great team player, and it’s more than just what she does physically,” Hale said. “Emotionally, for the team, she’s always there for everybody, makes people laugh, makes it fun, keeps it fun.”
Dodd’s signing continues Walk’s method of signing players who don’t need to be taught how to win. Dodd was a start of a state championship team with the Tigers her junior year, so she knows what it takes to play at the highest level of basketball.
“Any time you can sign a local kid with that caliber of talent, it’s good for the community, good for the college and it puts people in the seats. She comes from a good basketball program,” Walk said. “And like we’ve talked about many times before, we try to recruit from good programs. That way, we don’t have to teach them how to win. That winning attitude, that winning mentality, that’s what helped us win (the Region XVI Tournament). We want to continue that. We’re just blessed to have great local talent.”
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic