For 10 months, Alecia Sutton’s basketball life was put on hold.
Sutton’s lifelong passion was ripped apart in December of 2015, when she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during her senior season at Parkway North High School in St. Louis, Mo. As the No. 6 prospect nationally in the Class of 2016 — and the No. 2 point guard — the standout known as “Sug” abruptly became a player without a spot on the court.
“When it first happened, it hurt me emotionally and mentally,” the 5-foot-8-inch Sutton said Thursday at Cooley Pavilion on the University of Texas campus. “All I knew was basketball.”
One of three freshmen on the Texas women’s basketball team, Sutton was cleared to play Oct. 17, giving her a chance to make an immediate impact with the Longhorns.
UT coach Karen Aston answered questions about her 2016-17 team Thursday while also introducing five new players. Sutton will be joined by fellow freshmen Joyner Holmes and Jada Underwood. Also joining the Longhorns are two transfers, 6-4 twins Khaleann and Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau from Gatineau, Quebec.
Sutton said she was “relieved” to be cleared to practice. She sustained her injury during a holiday tournament on Dec. 27 before undergoing surgery on Feb. 12. On Thursday, Sutton said she’s “95 percent” recovered from the injury.
“The only thing slowing me down now is my lateral movement,” she said. “Other than that, I’m fine.”
Aston said all five newcomers will play key roles in their first seasons as Longhorns. Sutton will back up junior Brooke McCarty at point guard, freeing McCarty to find more opportunities for perimeter shooting. Last season, McCarty led the team in scoring (11.8 PPG) and three-pointers made (67).
“You’d be surprised if you came to practice and saw what Sug’s able to do after just two weeks of practice,” Aston said. “She’s really special.”
Sutton, who committed to Texas on her 16th birthday (Dec. 17, 2014), will be eased into the rotation slowly, the coach said. Sutton said she likely will be at full strength when Texas opens Big 12 season Dec. 29 against Texas Tech.
“Sometimes I have to remind myself to be patient with her,” Aston said. “She missed all of the summer and a lot of the fall while in rehabilitation.”
Sutton said she received her nickname from her father, Larry, who began calling her “Sugar” when she was 2. “I shortened it to Sug once I became a little older,” she added.
Her two sisters have equally fun nicknames, Sutton said. Alexis goes by “Nunu” while Atlantis is known as “Tootie.”
Sutton was one of the most heavily recruited players in the country before she committed Texas. She chose UT over Tennessee, UCLA, Nebraska and Louisville.
“When I came here for my visit, everybody was so welcoming,” she said. “I already knew Ariel (Atkins), and she helped me through the process of getting to know the coaching staff and players. This felt like my home, my second home.”