Caroline Doty fell prey to her own sense of ultra competitiveness last season.
Doty was not fazed that she was coming off of a third tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee that cost her the entire 2010-11 season as well as a procedure to remove a piece of hardware from the same knee Oct. 11, 2011. Her belief was that despite her health issues she was going to be able to play as well she did prior to ever being injured.
Doty pushed herself. And the more she pushed the more frustrating it became for her. No matter how hard she tried, her body would let her regain the form of past success. This disappointment proved to be extremely difficult for Doty to come to terms with, and it proved to be her undoing in what was statistically the worst year of her career.
“I always wanted more, and I don’t think that was the right mentality for me,’’ Doty said. “I was never happy with how I was playing and I was never really satisfied. That drove me into the ground. It really wasn’t a positive thing for anyone, and it really almost ended up destroying me by the end of the year because I wanted more and I was expecting more of myself.’’
Doty averaged 5.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 20.6 minutes in 37 games last season. She also shot 35.5 percent from the field and 73.1 percent from the free throw line.
Doty reached double figures in scoring in just seven games. Her best performance of the season came at Louisville Feb. 7 when she had season-highs of 15 points, five made 3-pointers and 35 minutes.
“If I would’ve just let it come to me, I would’ve had more games like Louisville,’’ Doty said. “Against Louisville I really wasn’t pushing myself too much, and things just kind of came naturally. You need to work hard when you need to, and when you need to take a time out just take a deep breath and let the game come to you. It’s called a game for a reason. You can’t force anything. If you force a shot, you’re not going to make it. If you force anything in the real world it’s not going to come to you. So you’ve got to just scope things out and stay positive the best you can and good things will happen.’’
Realizing that a change needed to be made for her own good and that of the team, Doty spent the off-season reflecting on the shortcomings she faced a year ago. She has since taken a step back in her approach. And judging by the way she has performed through the first two weeks of practice, one thing is clear: There will not be a repeat of last season.
“I want to make a name for myself, but that’s not my main priority,’’ Doty said. “My main priority now is for the team to win the national championship and hopefully go undefeated. It was definitely a lot of reflecting on my part, talking to coaches and taking the summer off and really seeing where I was as an individual. I just wanted to be able to come back and go through preseason and see how I felt and compete and come to practice and work on different plays and be involved the best I can. I wanted to prove that the reflecting phase was right and then just move forward and stay positive.
“If I didn’t stop worrying about myself and if I’m feeling OK or when I’m going to hit my next shot or if I’m going to score this game, it was going to make me go crazy. If I concentrate on the team things are going to come naturally. Positive thinking brings positive things. That’s what I think. I want to be on the floor as much as I can. It’s my last year so I want to be playing all the time, but if that isn’t the right move for the team then I’ll sit on the bench cheering for everybody hoping to keep winning and have fun while the year lasts.
“Now I have taken a step back and I’m able to see this team and how great they work together. I’ve been able to communicate with them and be able to play with them. Seeing how quick Moriah (Jefferson) is as a point guard and on the press or seeing everyone work together is cool to see. As long as I’m a part of it and I’m around to help people the best I can, I’m going to enjoy it.’’
UConn coach Geno Auriemma has long had a soft spot for Doty because of what she has been forced to overcome since tearing her ACL for the first time Sept. 7, 2007. And her performance in practice to date has drawn rave reviews.
“Caroline’s been really good,’’ Auriemma said. “If we had a game tomorrow, she’d start. She’s experienced. She’s smart. She knows what we want to get done. She’s tough. So I’m not looking at what she can’t do. I’m looking at all the things that she brings. And she brings a lot. Now does that mean she’s going to be as successful as she was as a sophomore and we went undefeated? I don’t know. That I can’t predict. But I do know that right now given that Moriah is young, Brianna Banks is young. Kaleena Lewis is young. I like Caroline. I like where she is right now. I like where she is mentally. I like where she is physically. I’m really pleased with her right now.
“I think one of the things that got her in trouble was she tried to do too many things. She thought she was back in her sophomore year (in 2009-10) where she could get in lane whenever she wanted and could do some of the things that she’s always been able to do. I think (assistant coach) Shea (Ralph) is trying to help her. I think what happens is when you get to the point where you have had that many setbacks like she’s had, you have to bring your game back and your game has to be more cerebral than it is physical. And I think she’s there right now. She’s there. She’s in a really good place right now.’’
Doty set career-highs in scoring (6.8), assists (3.5) and minutes (25.3) and played all 39 games (38 starts) in guiding UConn to a 39-0 season as a sophomore. With her new approach, a repeat of these type of numbers is not out of the realm of possibility.
Here is what she said she can offer the Huskies this season …
“Consistent shooting, definitely,’’ Doty said. “I feel like I know what play to run at what time. If things get too hectic I want the ball in my hands because I feel like I can help out the team and kind of slow them down and get people in the right spot. I want to work on controlling the ball better for myself and for the team. Less turnovers. And just getting open shots for my teammates. Let them shine. I just want to be on the floor with them to congratulate them after an and-1 or a big shot or a blocked shot.’’
With the season opener against the College of Charleston just more two weeks away, Doty looks as if she is refreshed, confident and in an ideal state of mind. The off-season changes that she made mentally have her in a good place right now.
“I feel better,’’ Doty said. “I’m not trying to convince myself of things any more. I tried to convince myself I was still the athlete I was in high school before these injuries. I’m kind of just going with the flow now and trying to keep an open mind and stay positive. You can’t force anyone to think something that’s not true. So if I just kind of prove it and let things happen it’ll all work out in the end.’’