Easley’s four-year journey to get back on the court


Left: andieeasley.com Right: Mckenzie Ford

Left: Junior guard Andie Easley drives toward the basket as a standout at Horizon High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Right: Easley dribbles around a defender against Portland State on Jan. 24. Easley is averaging six points in seven games this year for EWU.

By Drew Lawson, Reporter

After grinding through four years of transfers and injuries to play in her first game, junior guard Andie Easley does not have fond memories of her early college career.

“It was miserable,” Easley said. “Nobody really understood how badly I wanted to be on the court.”

Easley grew up in Phoenix and attended Horizon High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. She found the game of basketball in fourth grade while playing with her neighbors, who were important figures in her life.

“Growing up, my mom was sick all the time in the hospital,” Easley said. “My dad worked a lot, so my neighbors helped take care of me. They had boys who were my age in a rec center league, and I always wanted to play with them. At my elementary school they had tryouts and I told my parents I wanted to (play).”

The redshirt junior started her college career at the University of Hawaii, moving there in 2015 and participating in preseason workouts with the Rainbow Wahine. Before the season and her career could begin, a family concern made her realize she needed to move back to the mainland.

“I wasn’t happy,” Easley said. “My mom was going through a kidney transplant, and it was too expensive to fly back and forth from Hawaii. I needed to be in the mainland so I could be there for her.”

Easley decided to transfer to EWU, which was the first school that recruited her when she made her initial decision to attend Hawaii. She was able to be closer to her mom as she attempted to recover from her kidney transplant.

“(Assistant coach) Bryce (Currie) recruited me,” Easley said. “When I decided to leave Hawaii, Bryce and (EWU head coach) Wendy Schuller were the first people to reach out to me, so I felt really comfortable with them.”

Due to NCAA transfer rules, Easley had to sit out the remainder of the 2015-2016 season and half of the 2016-2017 season. She began to practice at the beginning of the 2016-2017 season, but then she was struck with injury problems.

“I had multiple stress fractures in my leg,” Easley said. “The (doctors) couldn’t figure out why, and we couldn’t get them to go away. They were getting worse … I tried to play through them in practice, and it got to the point where after each practice I could hardly walk.”

Some doctors suggested to Easley that they insert a titanium rod into her left tibia that ran from her knee to her ankle, saying that would heal the fractures and keep them from coming back. The procedure did not have the desired results.

“For some reason, my leg reacted wrong,” Easley said. “That first surgery is why I missed the rest of that second year. The rod was in my leg … it hurt constantly.”

After nine months of having the rod in her leg, Easley saw many doctors and concluded that the rod needed to be taken out, which required a second surgery. That surgery forced Easley to miss another season—this one being the 2017-2018 campaign. The second surgery had  painful side effects as well.

“They took the (rod) out and it was supposed to promote more healing in my bone,” Easley said. “But to get the rod in and out, they had to cut my patellar tendon in my knee completely in half. They cut it and pulled it apart to get the rod in, and then they reopened it to get the rod out. After the second surgery, no matter how much rehab I did … nothing would work. Every time I tried to get back out on the court I was in too much pain.”

In summer 2018, Easley traveled to Seattle to see another specialist, seeking clarity on how she could get back into playing shape. She discovered that her patellar tendon was still torn, so the specialist did a procedure on the muscle. That third surgery finally healed her leg after two and a half seasons.

At this point, it had been four years since Easley had played in a competitive game. She said watching others from the sidelines was the toughest part of sitting out.

“Seeing everyone else get to play while knowing how bad I want to play was (hard),” Easley said. “I didn’t understand why they got to play and I didn’t.”

Easley said her faith and determination to play the game she loved allowed her to keep working toward a comeback.

“I believed that God didn’t forget about me and He had a plan greater than I could understand,” Easley said. “Doctors and even friends and family would try to talk to me sometimes about the possibility that I would never play again but I refused to listen to them because I love the game too much to have believed it was over.”

Easley finally stepped onto the court in a regular season collegiate game at Idaho State on Dec. 31, 2018. She played eight minutes and scored three points. She’s played in seven games total for the Eagles, averaging seven points per game while averaging 17 minutes of playing time. While her statistics aren’t necessarily eye-popping, her journey has inspired EWU head coach Wendy Schuller.

“If you look in a dictionary and see ‘resilience’ and ‘determination’, you’re gonna see Andie’s picture next to it,” Schuller said. “That young lady has been through the gamut in terms of injuries and setbacks. Just about every other person in the world would’ve given up. Andie loves the game of basketball, she’s a gym rat, and I’m really really happy for her because she’s worked so hard to get back on the court.”

Senior guard Kapri Morrow, the team’s leading scorer, was excited about what Easley could bring to the team.

“She (brings) scoring (and) another ball-handler,” Morrow said. “She just does what she has to do for us.”

On Feb. 2, EWU will play at Northern Arizona. That game will carry extra meaning for Easley, as her mother will get to watch her play for the first time in four years. The disease her mother carries caused her body to begin to reject the kidney transplant she had received, so she remains ill.

“Her biggest goal has been to still be around to watch me play again,” Easley said. “It’s a huge blessing she will be able to come watch in Arizona.”

Easley’s dream as a child was to play professional basketball. While she acknowledges the setbacks may make that goal difficult, she hasn’t given up on it yet.

“I’ve always wanted to play professional basketball,” Easley said. “That’s part of what has … gotten me to persevere and kept me motivated. (I) think about the little girl that just wanted to play basketball.”•