By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director
SALEM, Ore. -- Kylie Towry (Jr./So., G, Medford, OR/South Medford HS) was off to a great start as a freshman on the Willamette University women's basketball team at the beginning of the 2013-14 season. She started each of the first eight games and was averaging 11.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest.
"When I started out, it was great. I was super excited. I loved the beginning of the season," Towry said.
Then, partway through the eighth game, she suffered a leg injury and missed the remainder of the season.
She tore an anterior cruciate ligament while coming down after a rebound. The injury required surgery and eight to 10 months of rehabilitation.
It was quite a change for a young college basketball player, but Towry battled through the injury and made a tremendous comeback in 2014-15.
"The knee injury taught her some perseverance," Willamette Head Coach Peg Swadener said. "It gave her a fresh hunger … It forced her to deal with the fact that things aren't always easy … Maintain your mental strength and keep a positive attitude."
"I still had full support from my team," Towry recalled. "They were always walking with me to make sure I was okay. I also went to practice so they always knew that I was supporting them, too. That's what helped me get through it … and self-motivation. I really wanted to be out there with them."
Towry said that she was pleased with the support she received from Willamette's athletic trainers, as well as personnel from PT Northwest during the academic year, and from a physical therapist at home in Medford, Oregon, over the summer of 2014.
"They really teach you how to land … to get back out there and still have the confidence to rebound," Towry said.
Eventually, Towry was able to return to the team as the 2014-15 season approached.
"I was able to start practice slowly. It's really frustrating as a player," Towry said. "But in the end it's worth it because you have to strengthen those muscles and make sure you're ready both mentally and physically."
Towry played and started all 25 games during 2014-15. She averaged 9.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. She set the Willamette single game record with nine successful 3-pointers against California Institute of Technology on Nov. 21, 2014.
For the season, Towry made 68 of 165 three-point shots, finishing just one 3-pointer short of the WU record of 69, set by Amy Ulrey in 1994-95.
"It (being a shooter and scorer) kind of came to me randomly when I was young," Towry said. "I never thought of myself as a shooter. And ever since, I've just made it the skill that I brought to the game."
On the strength of nine 3-point baskets, Towry scored a career-high 27 points against Caltech in the third game of the season. In Willamette's next game, against University of California, Santa Cruz, she hit 6 of 6 three-pointers and scored 21 points. She reached double digits in scoring nine times during the season. She grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds against Pacific Lutheran University on Feb. 13, 2015.
"I clearly want shooters," Swadener said. "She (Towry) is a savvy player, who played on a very good high school team (South Medford)."
While recruiting Towry, Swadener saw her complete a five-point play. Towry sank a 3-point shot, and then was fouled while setting up for a rebound in case she missed.
"That was the moment that I knew she was exactly what we needed to develop the program," Swadener recalled.
Towry decided in July following her senior year that she wanted to attend Willamette.
"When I was deciding what school I was going to go to, I was mostly looking on the West Coast," Towry said. "I talked to Peg for quite a long time and I realized what I wanted was an education. I could get an education at Willamette as well as a really good basketball experience."
Now that she's at Willamette, her family makes the trip up I-5 to see her play as often as they can. Towry appreciates the support.
"Even when I was growing up, they would travel as far as they could," she said.
When she's not playing, practicing or studying for classes, she's probably in the gymnasium.
"I go off on my own … or with a small group," Towry said. She then shoots about 400 shots in 40 or 45 minutes. "That's probably my workout every time I go to the gym."
When Towry is on the court, she is focused. Her level of concentration helps her be a leader for the Bearcats.
"She is incredibly composed," Swadener said. "She's played at a very high level. She's gritty and she understands the game. She's committed to making herself better. She is in the gym all the time.
"Instantly, she brought a court presence. She's brought confidence on the court. That was something that we really needed. What has been fun to watch over her two years is the development of her leadership skills," Swadener said.
Now, Towry is starting another year of basketball with the Bearcats. Recovering from an injury has made her a stronger and better player. Swadener has seen her gradually add to her list of skills.
"She's a phenomenal shooter," Swadener noted. "She puts up hundreds of shots a day. She's made herself a shooter. She's going to have to create her own opportunities … and shoot on the move. And she's been able to increase her range. She's our shooter. She's also a very good passer inside."
Towry has figured things out in the classroom, too. Since arriving at Willamette, she has decided to major in psychology.
"I started out taking the Introduction to Psychology course," Towry recalled. "I realized that psychology would be a really good stepping stone. I took more classes and it really effected my decision. After I major in psychology, I want to go to graduate school and study horticulture or biology."
Ultimately, Towry would like to work with horticultural therapy, which helps people deal with psychological issues by growing food and/or flowers. It can also bring a community together.
"It's more hands-on and I love being outside," Towry said. "It gets people outdoors. Everyone can come and join, and everyone who wants to be involved can come and be involved."