Injuries are tough for any athlete to overcome, but they are especially tough for athletes who are just beginning their collegiate careers. However, for Penn women’s basketball forward Kennedy Suttle, a freshman year injury has set her up for an impressive second season.
From the start of her freshman season, it was clear to her coach and teammates that Suttle would be an important part of the team. After a summer of rehabbing and conditioning, the beginning of this season has allowed her to build upon what she started last year.
“She was starting to really leave this impression, she was getting momentum, really starting to understand the game and what it took everyday,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “Unfortunately, she went down, so it was a little bit of a setback in the moment.”
In February, Suttle suffered a left-foot fracture that required her to have two screws put in, ending her season. For Suttle, having to rehab as a freshman was largely a mental battle that she needed to overcome.
“This was my first time being hurt in a serious way, so to see what I was missing out on and how I wasn’t able to help the team physically out on the court just gave me another push to play hard,” Suttle said.
So far, that motivation to come back even stronger has paid off for Penn. Suttle has started all four games for the Quakers, averaging 7.0 points and 6.5 rebounds. On Sunday against Iona, Suttle had the best game of her career, recording her first double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
For Suttle, her early production can be attributed to a mixture of opportunity and confidence. At the start of the season, she was bound to share time at forward with junior Tori Crawford. With Crawford being out for some time during the preseason, Suttle had an opportunity from the beginning to show that she was ready to contribute. With the playing time came confidence in herself, leading to further success on the court.
“Kennedy just really played well and just kept developing, and her confidence levels kept rising,” McLaughlin said. “She’s a good complement for Eleah [Parker], where [Suttle] can play out on the perimeter, and she can take the ball off the dribble.”
Suttle’s presence on the court and rebounding ability have also allowed Penn to be a better transition team. Of her 26 total rebounds this season, 18 have been on the defensive end, allowing her to jumpstart Penn’s offense.
“She’s so reliable to get those extra possessions for us,” senior guard and captain Kendall Grasela said. “She’s almost the X-factor. She’s a little on the smaller side, but she will outwork anybody that comes up against her.”
Grasela summed up Suttle with one word: a grinder. Whether it’s grinding back from injury, or battling for an extra rebound on the court, Suttle has been determined to give her all to basketball.
“I just love the feeling of feeling free and flying around. That’s where I get hustle plays and defense, that’s where I get my most kick out of playing basketball,” Suttle said. “Being able to play with such a great team and coaching staff has been the extra bonus.”
While Suttle has certainly contributed to the team on the court with her offense, her personality and calm demeanor is loved in the locker room.
“She’s literally the sweetest person you will ever meet,” Grasela said. “You would never think she is as aggressive as she is on the court. If I’m having a bad day, she’s the person I’m going to to cheer me up.”
Off the court, Suttle is dedicated to her faith and is involved with a Bible study group on campus.
“I’m a Netflix junkie, so I watch a lot of movies,” Suttle said. “So if I’m not watching movies or studying, I’m FaceTiming my family and keeping in contact with them.”
While much of her freshman season may have been lost, Suttle is already making a name for herself as a sophomore and has the ability to be a star for the Red and Blue.