With Season-Ending Injury, Ferda’s UM Basketball Career on Hold

By Beacon Staff

At first, Ashley Ferda thought she had shin splints. Really painful ones. But in October, an MRI revealed the pain’s true source: a deep stress fracture in her right tibia.

Ferda, who graduated as a three-sport star from Whitefish High School in 2008, plays basketball for the University of Montana. News of the stress fracture was rough, but initially not all appeared to be lost for the 2009-2010 season. Ferda wore a boot and stayed off the leg, believing she would return to the court after six weeks.

But an X-ray on Dec. 31 revealed even worse news. The fracture was still there and very deep. Ferda’s basketball season, before even entering a game, is over. She’s back in the boot. The injury appears to be the result of wear and tear, rather than one specific incident.

“It’s not all the way through my bone, but it’s a pretty good crack in there,” she said last week. “It’s not going to be able to be healed up this season.”

After using her redshirt last year, Ferda is seeking a medical redshirt this season so she can still have four years of eligibility when she returns to the court. In her two years at UM, she hasn’t played in a regular season game. Ferda believes she meets the requirements for a medical redshirt, but she must fill out paperwork and wait for the NCAA’s decision.

“I was really disappointed,” Ferda said. “I was looking forward to this season after sitting out all last year.”

Ferda grew up in Whitefish in an athletic family. Her father, Scot, is a track coach at Whitefish High School. Her oldest brother Tucker played football and ran track in high school, and her other older brother Taylor brother was a three-sport athlete who is running track in college.

Her older cousin and close friend Courtney went to UM on a track scholarship after a record-breaking career at Whitefish High School. Courtney’s younger brother Tyson was named first-team Northwestern A all-conference in football as a senior this fall for the Bulldogs.

Surrounded by all of this athleticism, Ferda still managed to emerge into the spotlight. At Whitefish High School, she left behind a distinguished legacy in three different sports. She won state championships in both the 100-meter hurdles and javelin, and was an all-state performer in both volleyball and basketball.

While she could have chosen any of those three sports in college, basketball remained her foremost love. She accepted a scholarship to play for the Grizzlies under legendary coach Robin Selvig, who is on a short list of Division I basketball coaches who have more than 700 career victories. The Lady Griz are perennial Big Sky Conference contenders.

Selvig said Ferda was battling for the starting point guard position before her injury. Calling her a “good shooter and a good learner,” Selvig said she remains an important component of the team’s future. He expects her to come back strong.

“She’s a good player and I anticipate her becoming a really good player – she just needs a chance to play,” Selvig said. “She still has a chance for a very bright future.”

Each potential medical redshirt situation is different, Selvig said, so there are no guarantees for Ferda. But, he said: “Worst-case scenario, she’ll have three really good years ahead of her.”

“We’re really disappointed for Ashley and we’re really disappointed for us,” Selvig said of the injury. “Hopefully she keeps her chin up.”

And Ferda’s chin appears to be firmly held up. She’s making the best of her situation and finding bright spots where possible. At the very least, she no longer has to play a guessing game with her injury. Will she play next week, in two weeks or in two months? Now that she knows the answer, it’s easier for her to move forward.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Ferda said. “It was hard to wake up everyday wondering if I was going to be able to play. Once I heard what it was and I knew I couldn’t play, it kind of made sense. Getting closure on that was kind of a relief.”

Ferda still can’t explain the injury. She said she “never ran into anything or got kicked.” After discussions with her doctor, the best explanation seems to be overuse. But while she did a triathlon in the offseason and played a lot of basketball, she said she didn’t work out “a ton more than in high school.”

“It’s kind of a weird deal,” she said. “I can’t really figure it out.”

Because of where the injury’s located, the doctor told Ferda it will take a long time to heal, but the exact timeline isn’t known yet. For now, she’ll stay in the boot until her doctor gives her clearance. Unaccustomed to being inactive, she said: “I better figure out something to do besides watch T.V.” Schoolwork will keep her busy too.

Injuries aside, Ferda said her UM experience has exceeded her expectations, which is saying something considering she entered her freshman year with pretty lofty expectations.

“I love Missoula,” Ferda said. “I love my coaches and teammates. I couldn’t be in a better place. I love it there.

“All the school and work is a hard thing, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

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