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Jamirah Shutes navigates through unpredictable time to overcome adversity

Jamirah Shutes navigates through unpredictable time to overcome adversity
Memphis junior guard Jamirah Shutes sizing up an Arkansas State defender. Shutes led the Tigers with 17 points in this Dec. 14, 2019 victory. (Courtesy: @MemphisWBB/Twitter)

Raven Moore - BVM Sports Intern Writer

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BVM) – Around this time, the University of Memphis women’s basketball team would be just a month away from their season opener. Instead, they will not take the court until Nov. 25 and have yet to even know their schedule.

Though this can lead to frustration from some players, not everyone has that same sentiment.

One player who is appreciative for the later start to the season is Tigers junior guard Jamirah Shutes. Just 19 games into the 2019 season, Shutes suffered a torn ACL and was unfortunately sidelined for the rest of the season.

At the time, Shutes had been leading the team in scoring, averaging 15.2 points and was second on the team in made 3-pointers with 31.

Since her injury on Jan. 25, she had been working hard to rehab and make it back to the court, but as one can imagine, it has been difficult navigating through this while the country entered a shut down.

“With the season starting later, it’s giving me more confidence in the knee,” Shutes said. “I have to learn to trust it fully again. It was kind of hard in the beginning to rehab, but now it’s just been the new normal.”

Despite her injury, Memphis head coach Melissa McFerrin sees Shutes doing all that she can physically do to help her teammates during practice.

“Jamirah is still in full rehab mode, but she’s been very engaged on the court,” McFerrin said. “She’s been engaged with her teammates and just is trying to be in any drill she can be. Even if that’s simply passing or being available.”

As if it were not bad enough that she had to deal with her own injuries, Shutes has also had to deal with her fair share of adversity due to the pandemic. One of her family members was one of the hundreds of thousands of people to succumb to their symptoms of COVID-19.

“I lost my grandmother to COVID,” Shutes said. “I’m still praying and trying to get through that, all while balancing school and the injury. So, I’m working through it.”

With such a direct line to the effects of COVID, there were worries that Shutes would think about opting out this season. She would not be the first prolific Memphis Tigers athlete to do so this season.

There have been multiple football players who have decided to opt out, but none as impactful as running back Kenneth Gainwell. In Gainwell’s redshirt freshman season, he had over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns. Gainwell had lost four family members due to COVID-19 and as told to Memphis newspaper, the Commercial Appeal, by his father Curtis, he did not want to potentially put himself and others at risk to the same fate.

“He decided that he didn’t want to take any chances with the coronavirus going on. You don’t want to get out there and get sick and bring it to us, his brother or his teammates.” Gainwell Sr. told the newspaper.

So, what about Shutes? Would she take that same route? Well, she said it was a thought, but she decided her best move would be to play.

“The thought of opting out has crossed my mind” Shutes said. “But no matter where I go, COVID is there. So, for the ones that are opting out, I understand. But for me, it wasn’t a thought I really thought to follow through with.”

Even though she expects to take the court, she is not ignorant to the possible struggles that a season during COVID can present. Memphis football has not gotten to play a game since their season opener on Sept. 5 because of positive tests on the team. No matter how careful one can be, that does not mean that they will be immediately immune, especially playing a game where players are in close contact with one another.

“I just don’t want for our season to start and then get cut short,” Shutes said. “I would hate for the season to never start back and everyone loses their year of eligibility.”

Still, Shutes continues to maintain her enthusiasm for the season, but knows that it will take more than her on the court contributions for that to happen.

“My biggest goal is to stay healthy,” Shutes said. “I want to continue to be a great teammate. Coach McFerrin has been training me to do that since I got to Memphis. So, since I have that voice, why not use it to help out teammates and the ones who aren’t as experienced on this level?”