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July 9, 2013

The long, hard road to recovery

DURHAM, N.C. — Chelsea Gray stood motionless on the treadmill, a nervous look creeping across her face.

For the first time since dislocating her right kneecap, the Duke guard was going to run.

But as the treadmill gradually picked up speed, Gray — one of the best players in women’s college basketball — watched her right knee handle that test just fine. Almost immediately, her trademark smile came rushing back.

“She’s an amazing healer,” said Summer McKeehan, the school’s associate athletic trainer for women’s basketball.

The Associated Press observed some of Gray’s workouts as she continues rehabbing from a serious knee injury that cost her the final month of her junior season.

Gray spends between 60 and 90 minutes a day, five days a week, in the training room. She works out with her teammates in the pool on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Saturdays are also spent working with the Blue Devils with no coaches around.

“I’m just trying to get back as soon as I can but as safe as I can,” she said.

She’s working the muscles around the kneecap, as well as her hips and legs, after her patella came loose while she strained for a rebound and collided with a Wake Forest player in a late February home game. It was a freak injury — McKeehan said she’d never treated a dislocated kneecap during her 12 years with the Duke women’s team.

Gray still was voted the Atlantic Coast Conference’s co-player of the year by the league’s coaches following a season in which she averaged 13.1 points and led the ACC with averages of 5.6 assists and 3.7 steals at the time of her injury.

Gray had surgery March 14 and almost immediately started working on flexing her knee.

She’s about four months into a six-month rehab process and insists she’ll be back at full strength when her senior season starts this fall.

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