Byington’s road to recovery

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Byington’s road to recovery

Byington attempts to knock down a free throw from the line in last year's Bucs Pride game.

Byington attempts to knock down a free throw from the line in last year's Bucs Pride game.

Macy Swiftney

Byington attempts to knock down a free throw from the line in last year's Bucs Pride game.

Macy Swiftney

Macy Swiftney

Byington attempts to knock down a free throw from the line in last year's Bucs Pride game.

Ashton Voorhees, Reporter

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The first thing you notice about Esther when she walks into the room is that she’s tall. Really tall. It’s not every day that you see a 6-foot-3-inch figure towering over everyone else, whether it’s in the hallway at school or in the paint on the court.

“She may be the second tallest player I’ve ever coached next to Abby Cole,” coach Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “Her ability to score around the rim and her size and her ability to block shots separates her from the rest, she’s got that length and makes it tough for other teams to score in the paint.”

Getting the job done in the paint is Byington’s specialty. On last year’s varsity team she averaged 7.9 points per game, lead the squad with 51 blocks which averages to 2.5 per game, and added a team high 6.9 rebounds per game.

Strong statlines can be deceiving, but Byington’s accurately displays her prowess. Esther earned honorable mention all-conference in the O.K. Red, which makes her one of the top 15 players in the conference. Earning all of those awards as a sophomore means she has even more room to one-up herself in the coming years.

To improve on her start, she has to get stronger, faster, and more explosive. These are all things that Esther has worked on during the offseason.

“I’ve been lifting and trying to gain muscle.” Byington said. “You have to be tough, you can’t let people push you around. It’s definitely going to happen occasionally, but I think being tough is something that every post player needs to work on.”

Getting stronger has been one of Esther’s goals because of her end to last season, as well as her recent history with injuries. During districts, she got hurt with a shoulder injury that made her unavailable for the rest of the tournament.

“We lost Esther at the end of the year when she got hurt in the district tournament,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “It was the day before the district game that we lost.”

Going into the season, the after effects from the injury were yet to go away. The nagging effects were still present, and heading into her junior season Byington was still fighting a battle with pain and discomfort, as well as any opponents jostling for space in the paint with her.

“My shoulder injury is still definitely there,” Byington said at the beginning of the season. “Nothing structurally is wrong but there’s a lot of muscle damage that isn’t still 100 percent, so I still get it taped and go to therapy and all of that stuff, but I’m learning how to play with it now and waiting for therapy and meds to kick in.”

This season was looking promising for Byington, until that nagging injury aggravated during a practice into a season-ending injury that requires her to undergo labrum surgery.

“It was frustrating,” Byington said. “I felt like I was finally on the right track with moving and getting going and then it all of a sudden got hurt again.”

However, Byington is determined to limit the effects of the injury, and still sticks by the team through all of the games to help support in any way possible.

“I’ve accepted that I’m hurt now,” Byington said. “But I can still be there for my team and support them, and do what I can do on my end.”

Esther’s dedication to the team, her fellow teammates, and the game as a whole all contribute to how she plays a part into the overall team chemistry for the Bucs.

“Esther’s very well liked on the team,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “She’s goofy, she’s one that you can pick on and give a hard time and she takes it well. Team chemistry is really important, you can have all of the talent in the world but if the team doesn’t get along, it doesn’t mean much. She’s a big factor in our team chemistry and she compliments that.”

The future looks bright for Byington. A solid start to her varsity career paired with the intangibles that can’t be taught means that Esther can evolve into an even better player. That evolution will need to be taken one step at a time though, the first of which is rebounding back from her shoulder problems.

“We’re hoping she continues to get healthier as the season goes on and that nagging shoulder injury doesn’t cause her much pain,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “I think she’ll have a good year, this team’s gonna have a good year, and she’s gonna be a big part of this team’s success.”

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT ESTHER:

  • Loves being outdoors
  • Funniest basketball memory was when she got called up for districts and her first time in a pass hit the back of her head
  • 7.9 PPG, 2.5 BPG, and 6.9 RPG as a sophomore

COLLEGE PLANS:

  • Considering Northern Michigan, Saginaw Valley
  • Has gotten college looks from most schools in the GLIAC conference
  • Wants to go into science
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