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MOUNT WASHINGTON - A devastating knee injury late last summer, the second of her career, cost Bullitt East senior Jessica Philpott her second season with the Lady Chargers.
That was all bad news. The good news is that many colleges never shied away from recruiting the athletic guard who was projected to be one of the top players in the Sixth Region before the injury.
In the end, it was Transylvania University in Lexington that got Philpott’s signature on a letter-of-intent.
Philpott also considered Asbury and had an offer from Bellarmine to be a preferred walk-on.
“It just came down to feeling right at home there,” Philpott said of the Pioneers’ program. “Plus, they had my major.”
Philpott was not feeling very positive last August as she prepared for surgery. Her spirits were lifted when Transylvania called the day before she went to the hospital.
“They have been recruiting me since I was a sophomore,” Philpott said. “I went to a Blue Chip Camp at Georgetown and they were there and saw me. That was the summer before my sophomore year.”
That is not to say that there were not a few nervous moments because of the injury.
“I was worried,” the 18-year old daughter of Steve and Janice Philpott said. “I had more schools, but they dropped off (after the injury). I got a little worried.”
After making it all official recently in a ceremony in front of family and teammates in the school lobby, Philpott reported that her knee was feeling good and that she was fully cleared to play basketball again. She said that Transylvania had made no mention of her redshirting a season to work on the knee.
Perhaps the toughest time for Philpott came at the end of the high school season. She had hoped to be back and ready to help the team during the stretch run, but the knee just did not heal in time.
Bullitt East head coach Chris Stallings did manage to get Philpott on the floor at the start of the final home game against Sacred Heart and Philpott scored a basket. She also played a few moments in the opening round game of the Sixth Region Tournament, a blow-out win over Doss.
Philpott can point to the exact day of the injury - July 27.
“I felt great,” the 5-foot-6 senior said of playing late in the season. “But all the doctors made sense of not playing and risking my college career. I thought I was ready to go.
“It was awful being so close,” she said. “Coach Stallings treated me right by getting me in those safe situations.”
Philpott grew up in Mount Washington, attending Mount Washington Elementary before moving on to Mount Washington Middle School where she played for Christal Scott who also serves as the assistant coach at Bullitt East.
As a sophomore, Philpott saw playing time with the Lady Charger varsity team, scoring 65 points in 19 games along with 20 rebounds.
Philpott became a key player off the bench for the Lady Chargers during her junior season, averaging 5.3 points a contest with 62 rebounds and 75 steals. That Bullitt East team reached the championship game of the Sixth Region Tournament before falling to Butler.
In the following summer, before her senior season, Philpott played in the annual Junior All-Star game at Bellarmine along with teammate Lindey Young. A month earlier, she had been on a Junior All-Star team that scrimmaged the Kentucky All-Stars.
Was there a favorite memory from Bullitt East?
“Beating Mercy my junior year,” Philpott said of a one-point win over the eventual state champions. “Just being able to play in the Doss game as a senior was incredibly amazing.
Philpott had a lot of support in the college process.
“Coach (Steve) Small really helped,” she said of the former Bullitt East head coach who is back in Mount Washington after retiring, and now un-retiring, to take the job at Assumption. “He just pretty much laid out the whole college process. He said I have to prove myself again. It won’t be given to me.
“Plus, all the girls (teammates) helped me get to where I am now,” the senior concluded.
Philpott will join a strong program at Transylvania. The Pioneers went 20-8 last season and finished with a 13-5 mark in the Heartland Conference. The team lost in the conference final to Hanover 82-71.
Stallings has no doubt that Philpott can make a big contribution to the Pioneers’ program.
“I think she can play a one or a two,” the Bullitt East coach said of either guard spot. “She will be fine. She has great leadership skills. She is very dedicated to the game.”
Stallings also pointed out that knee injuries are quite common in female players and that college coaches seldom shy away from those players.
“She still favors it a little,” the coach said. “That will go away by fall. She will be fine.”