Injury year has helped make West Jessamine freshman Claire Marshall a better player

Published 3:48 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2024

About a year ago, Claire Marshall had her basketball season ended when she injured her knee and needed surgery. However, not only is she back playing this season but she’s been a force for the West Jessamine Colts.

She is averaging 16.8 points and 12.3 rebounds per game while hitting 46 percent overall from the field.

“The last year has been eventful,” said Marshall, who has also been battling the flu recently. “It was a challenge to my mental and physical strength. I just had to take a different perspective when I was hurt. I had to learn to look at the game from a coach’s view and I am grateful for what I learned.”

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She got a text message from South Laurel coach Chris Souder, who won two state titles at Mercer County, after her surgery, urging her to use the opportunity “to grow as a player” while she was out.

“I knew I could either feel sorry for myself or use the opportunity to grow and learn,” Marshall said. “Now I think my knee is finally back to about 100 percent. I have not really had any pain in two months. I have had some ankle issues that come and go, but my knee has been okay. For a while the swelling just kept coming back, so I am grateful to be healthy again.”

Sometimes it’s hard to remember Marshall is only a freshman. She averaged 11.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game as a seventh-grader. Last season, she averaged 15.5 points and 12.6 rebounds per game before getting hurt. She went to the free throw line 225 times in those two seasons and now has been there 355 times in three seasons because she’s so powerful going to the basket.

“I definitely feel I am a better player now than last season. It’s not just me but our whole team chemistry has grown,” she said. “I have developed different aspects of my game. I have been more confident in my shot. I have worked on my free throw shooting and making the right plays.”

She is 8-for-20 from 3-point range and admits she’s more of a wing player in AAU than she is in high school because her team needs her inside scoring and rebounding.

“I feel like I should shoot more 3’s but I am too busy rebounding,” Marshall, who recently turned 15, said. “I have worked on my ball handling and it has got better even though I would still call it a work in progress.

“I feel better after a game if I have a lot of rebounds. I feel like when I don’t do well rebounding that I am not giving max effort because rebounding is about hustle and effort. I have put on a lot of muscle, especially in my upper body. Our coach has us in the weight room a lot and my dad helps me.”

She usually takes advantage of the high school boys basketball coach opening the gym before school to get in extra shots.

West Jessamine (15-6) has a young team with just two seniors who play significant roles and that has forced Marshall to take more of a leadership role this season.

“That has been good for me, too,” she said. “Sometimes I can be really hard on myself. I have to try and remember I am still relatively young and have plenty of time to prove myself but I also know I can’t relax because there are a lot of young players my age doing great things.”