BILLINGS – Joliet junior Jordan Grewell wouldn’t wear her now trademark goggles if she had her way.
“It’s kind of frustrating, because they all block out my peripheral vision,” she admitted. “And they get knocked off and then I have to stop and put them back on.”
“She’ll try to do some of the drills without wearing them,” said Joliet coach Sam Anttila. “She pushes the limit.”
Doctor’s orders say the goggles stay after Grewell almost lost her right eye 15 months ago in a bizarre accident.
“Some kids were just messing around in art class, and one of them threw a pencil at another kid and missed, and it bounced off the table and went up into my eye,” Grewell said. “My grandma ran me to the hospital, and (the doctor) told us I had to go into surgery right away, because he was worried I might lose my eyeball if we didn’t do anything about it.”
That was October 2017, and while the surgery saved the eye, basketball was out of the question.
“I could barely see a hand right in front of my face,” Grewell recalled.
Another surgery in July to eliminate a cataract worked wonders, but now the question coming into this year: Was Grewell already too far behind?
“It’s been a little difficult getting back into it, and I’m a year behind,” she said. “I feel like I kind of missed out on my opportunity to get better.”
“It was really too bad last year when the injury kept her out, because she had starting growing so much as a player,” Anttila recalled. “She was a little hesitant coming out this year, and I just grabbed her one day in the hallway and said, ‘We need you out.'”
Most kids wouldn’t play JV knowing they would be on varsity if circumstances were different. But Grewell isn’t most kids.
“You can see the frustrations she has,” Anttila said. “She wants it so bad to be at that varsity level, but you couldn’t ask for a kid with a better attitude. She’s still smiling. She’s first one to dive on the floor for a loose ball.”
And there are some perks. If Grewell commits a turnover or misses a pass, she can just say she didn’t see it.
“I have used that excuse before for things, but I think it’s getting a little old,” she confessed, smiling. “People don’t believe me anymore.”
As for in class, she hasn’t sworn off pencils yet, though she’s keeping an eye on them.
“Everybody always makes jokes,” Grewell said. “If somebody throws a pencil, everybody’s like, ‘Cover your eyes!'”