By Jim Ecker
Ashley Tull has some unfinished business to tackle with the Kirkwood women's basketball team after missing the entire 2019-20 campaign while recovering from a torn ACL in her left knee.
She has decided to return for a third year with the Eagles in search of a successful season and a scholarship to a four-year school.
Tull, a 5-foot-11 forward from North Linn, hurt her knee on Jan. 16, 2019 during a conference game against Southeastern Community College in West Burlington.
"I remember catching the ball and I went to land," she said. "I heard a snapping sound and I thought, 'That's not good.'"
The SCC trainer thought Tull might have hyperextended her knee, but the Kirkwood trainer who was watching the game on TV immediately suspected a torn ACL.
Tull's freshman campaign was over after 21 games, having produced solid numbers of 9.9 points and 5 rebounds in a balanced attack for Coach Kim Muhl's club.
It takes about a year to fully recover from a torn ACL and surgery, and sure enough, Tull was getting ready to play for Kirkwood again this past January for the second half of the season. She was cleared and practicing and anxious to get back on the court.
"Right after Christmas I felt I was ready to get back in," she said. "Coach called me into his office and said, 'Do you want to play now or do you want to wait a year?'"
Tull, who has high ambitions, elected to wait for the 2020-21 campaign when she could play a full season and try to catch the eye of a four-year school. "I love playing basketball and I want to play as long as I can," she remarked.
The Eagles could have used Tull down the stretch this season, but Muhl supported her decision to postpone her return to active duty. Instead of playing in games this past season, she helped the Eagles as much as she could in practice.
"I got to beat on the girls," she said, laughing. "That was fun."
Tull will be getting her degree from Kirkwood this spring, with an emphasis on general education courses, but she'd like to begin working on an additional degree in business administration, coaching or physical therapy.
"That was one of my reasons for staying another year," she said. "I've done a lot of physical therapy, unfortunately, so I know a lot about that."
A few NAIA schools and NCAA Division III schools recruited Tull at North Linn, where she averaged 15.6 points and 7 rebounds her senior year when the Lynx finished 23-1 in 2017-18, but she declined to pursue any of those opportunities and enrolled at Kirkwood. "All of those schools cost a lot of money to go to," she noted.
Tull wanted to improve as a player at Kirkwood and trust Coach Muhl to help her find a good deal at a four-year school when the time came. "It's really nice to know that Coach has a lot of good connections and can help us find a scholarship," she said.
Tull is keeping busy at her home in rural Troy Mills, running and staying in shape while waiting for the pandemic restrictions to be lifted. Kirkwood runs a competitive summer basketball league for college players and that will be her next step.
"I'm just trying to stay as active as possible," she said.