Watching senior Naomi Gipson play basketball this season at Westview High, you’d never know last year at this time she couldn’t even suit up.
Now the second-leading scorer and top rebounder for the Wolverines, the 5-foot-10 guard-forward was sidelined during a 10-month rehabilitation stint while attending Cathedral Catholic.
As the Dons were winning the Western League championship and the San Diego Section Open Division crown, Gipson laid her crutches behind the bench and cheered her team on after undergoing ACL surgery on her left knee in July 2018.
“I was really bummed I couldn’t be part of it last year,” Gipson said. “I felt like an outsider even though I was working hard to come back and my teammates were working hard to win CIF.”
Gipson, who played 19 games at Cathedral in 2017-18 as a sophomore after sitting out 30 days following her transfer from Westview, was injured during an offseason game in Portland, Ore., with her Sol club team.
Driving to the basket, she collided with an opposing player. The anterior cruciate ligament was injured and her junior season went down the drain.
“I could feel the knee swelling,” she said. “I got surgery on a Thursday, went to my first rehab the following Monday and went home and threw up.”
Gipson showed a lot of promise during her one season with the Dons, who won the Western League title that year.
She averaged 6.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 steals.
Back on the court this season, Gipson is trying to regain the form she had two years ago.
“Part of me was hoping I could play at the end of last season, but it didn’t work out,” Gipson said. “I was out 10 months and that was the best thing for me.
“It was really hard to not play last year, especially when the team won the Open Division.
“But it feels great to be playing again.”
Gipson’s statistics this season after transferring back to Westview show she’s back in form, even if she thinks she has a ways to go to be 100 percent.
Her 14.1 scoring average goes well with a 6.5 rebounding average. She’s also adding 2.0 assists and 2.6 steals a game.
She had no 3-pointers at Cathedral as a sophomore. She has 16 this season, third-best mark for the Wolverines, who stand 21-1 as the No. 4-ranked team in the section.
“She’s a combo presence,” Westview coach Bob McHeffey said. “She can hit threes, can drive to the basket and she’s the point person on our press.
“She’s matured to the point of becoming a slasher-shooter-scorer.
“I was disappointed when she left, but how can you argue when the parents wanted to find something better for her.”
McHeffey is thrilled to have another shooter on the roster.
Despite missing out on having college recruiters scout her junior season, Gipson has her future set with a commitment to Cal Lutheran.
After, of course, she finishes this bookend year to her Wolverines career.
“I needed something new and familiar,” said Gipson, who is 41/2 years younger than sister and former Wolverine Macy and 12 years younger than sister Britany. “Being out so long, coming back to Westview was the right move for me.
“Not playing in last year’s Open finals was a bummer, but I am happy the way we’re playing this season.
“I was surprised how balanced we are and how focused we are on defense.”
Gipson knows her ACL injury took away her junior season, but there’s nothing to rob her of her senior year.