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Gemma Bullard wins national award for perseverance

March 14, 2014

Gemma Bullard of the Queen’s Golden Gaels Thursday night was named winner of the Tracy MacLeod Award for determination and perseverance.

The award was presented in Windsor on the eve of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport women’s basketball tournament, where Bullard’s Gaels are the sixth-seeded team.

Bullard’s 11.4 points-per-game average in the regular Ontario University Athletics season is made remarkable by the emergency-room odyssey that led to it.

Arriving at Queen’s from Guelph in the fall of 2010 having already had surgery to repair an anterior-cruciate ligament, in her first season Bullard suffered a severe concussion. After missing more than a month she recovered both to return to the basketball court and successfully complete her first year of engineering study.

She missed the entire 2011-12 season after she again tore the same ACL. The knee still wasn’t right last year, and she ultimately underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

A strained rotator cuff in the preseason this year and a bout of mononucleosis over the Christmas break kept Bullard familiar to medical staff, but she missed just three games, finishing the Gaels’ division-championship season with shooting percentages of .386 from the field and a .326 from beyond the three-point stripe.

Bullard, who has played just 47 of her team’s 88 games the last four years, established her career best against Brock Nov. 23, when she scored 25 points.

“Gemma’s competitive spirit is what has driven her through — and caused some of — her injuries,” Gaels coach Dave Wilson said, in a release. “Her will to succeed is what has made her a great player in spite of the concussion, two knee surgeries, food poisoning, a shoulder tear and a number of other injuries.

“She has spent countless hours in the weight room, on the track and in the gym, working to overcome all the obstacles, and stands as an example of what can be accomplished in the face of adversity.”

Other finalists for the award were Jenna Jones of Prince Edward Island and Jaime Norum of Alberta.

The MacLeod award is named for former Brandon Bobcats player Tracy MacLeod, who, in just her second university game in 1992, so badly broke a leg landing awkwardly after taking a shot that, nine operations later, it had to be amputated. MacLeod returned to the team with a prosthetic leg less than a year later and as she earned two degrees, she completed her intercollegiate career, one highlighted by a game of 10 rebounds and 20 points in her first season back.

The Gaels are in the national championship tournament for the third time in team history, the first time since 2003. After winning the Ontario University Athletics East division championship with a 62-58 overtime win over Carleton, Queen’s, 16-6 in the regular year, dropped a 73-48 decision to Windsor in the OUA final, a defeat that ended a nine-game winning streak.

The Gaels, who have played just three games since Feb. 15, will open the tournament Friday afternoon at 3 o’clock against No. 3-seeded Saskatchewan, hoping for a better result than they achieved in October, when they were beaten 68-33 by the Huskies at a tournament in Toronto.

Saskatchewan, 17-5 in the regular season, third in the Canada West Prairie division, upset Regina, which at 20-2 shared first place in the division, in the semifinals before defeating Fraser Valley 67-56 for the conference championship.

The Huskies are led by Canada West player of the year Dalyce Emmerson, who was fourth in the country in scoring (19.2 points per game) and second with 11.6 rebounds per game.

The three-time defending national champion Windsor Lancers are the tournament’s top seed. Also in the field are second-seeded Saint Mary’s, the Atlantic conference champion; No. 4 McGill, the Quebec champion; No. 5 Fraser Valley, the Canada West finalist; No. 7 Alberta, the Canada West bronze medalist, and No. 8 Wilfrid Laurier, the Ontario bronze medalist.

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