Despite being a true freshman who was sitting out the season rehabilitating a knee injury, Maura Singer made her presence known during her first week of full practice with the Colorado women’s basketball team in February.
“She’s a very loud kid on the court,” Buffaloes head coach JR Payne said. “She brought some intensity to our defensive shell drill that we hadn’t had. She kind of raised the level of play.”
A 6-foot-4 center from Columbine High School in Littleton, Singer’s got a big personality and a load of talent, but a heavy dose of bad luck. Singer’s first week of full practice ended abruptly when she planted wrong and heard a pop in her right knee.
“This pop felt a little bit different,” she said.
Originally, it was believed she tore her meniscus and she had surgery on Feb. 28. It was later discovered, however, that she also tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) – again.
On Wednesday, Singer will have surgery to repair her ACL, followed by 12 months of recovery time.
“I’ve had a whole bunch of mixed emotions,” she said.
“I realized that all of these injuries are helping me prepare for tougher things in life and I can go through things that are hard, although it stinks. I don’t want to do it, but you can’t control everything that happens to you. … All I can do is rehab, get better and get stronger and move on from it.”
Singer knows the drill all too well.
Talented enough to average 7.3 points and 9.8 rebounds on varsity as a high school freshman and earn first-team All-State honors as a junior, Singer originally tore the ACL in her left knee during her prep career.
After months of recovery, she returned to the court for Columbine’s game against Ralston Valley on Jan. 5, 2019. Just 32 seconds into the game, she tore her right ACL.
“I was just a little bit more angry (than the first one),” she said. “Why did this happen? I worked super hard to get back and be able to play at least a little bit of my senior year, and then I got hurt again so I was a little bit frustrated.”
By then, however, she had already signed her letter of intent to play at CU and she turned her attention to getting healthy and playing for the Buffs.
Payne, Singer and the Buffs’ staff went into last season knowing Singer wasn’t going to play, but that didn’t mean it would be a lost year. While the Buffs practiced, Singer went to the other end of the court and worked on her shot.
As a 6-4 center, she spent all of her time playing close to the basket in high school, but knew she couldn’t rely on that in the Pac-12. She started working on her mid-range shots. Once that was consistent, she started working on shots from the women’s 3-point line, and then the men’s 3-point line.
“I just started trying to expand my game every time so that when the chance came I could be an outside threat as well as an inside threat,” she said. “I would put up 500 shots in just two hours, and I would just keep going and make it very consistent.”
In addition, Singer said she grew a lot as a person during her freshman year and learned how to lift weights and reshape her body for the rigors of college basketball.
“Maura had a great year,” Payne said. “She dropped weight that she wanted to and put on some lean muscle and looks really good. She made the most of her year.”
The same genetics that helped Singer get to CU, however, then got in the way of her completing the year.
The Singers are an athletic family, with Maura being the youngest. Her parents, Andrew and Carolyn, both played basketball at Duquesne; her brother Ryan played basketball at San Jose State; her sister Erin played volleyball at Fairleigh Dickinson; and her other brother, Kevin, is an offensive lineman at Albany.
As talented and competitive as they are, however, they’ve been through their challenges. Maura is the third of the four Singer siblings to have three ACL tears, and her father has had the injury, as well.
“We used to call our surgeon our ‘family surgeon’ because he literally (operated on) everybody,” she joked.
Singer said she worries about the future and that maybe her knees aren’t going to hold up for college basketball, but she said, “If I end up not being able to play basketball, that’s just kind of the price I have to pay, but right now I’m just trying to kind of keep a focus on getting stronger and getting back.”
Fortunately, Singer has a strong support system of a family knowing her road to recovery and a team that she loves.
“Being with my team has always been like a nice thing,” she said. “Them knowing, first of all, that I’ve done this so many times, they’re going to be super supportive of me, but then also them pushing me. … I hope that they really get on me so that my body is just super strong, because I think that’s going to be the biggest component in my success. I have to be able to hold my own (on the court) and also to be strong so that I don’t get hurt again in the future.”
If she can avoid further injury or setbacks, Singer should be ready to play for the Buffs during the 2021-22 season. By then, with the exception of those 32 seconds against Ralston Valley High School about 17 months ago, she will have basically missed three full seasons.
“I’m going to have butterflies probably a week before the tip even happens,” she said. “I’m going to have nerves but I’m also going to be super excited because I’ve worked so hard, and I’m going to work even harder for the knee coming up.
“I don’t know if you can really prepare yourself mentally to go through everything you just went through for a whole year (again). You just have to bite the bullet and I’m doing this to better myself and to better my career and hopefully I can have a successful career.”