Redshirt senior guard Devin Fuhring looks to pass the ball in to a teammate in a home game against Emporia State on Nov. 17, 2021. The Lions lost the game 103-102 in double overtime. Photo courtesy of Don Adams Jr.
Redshirt senior guard Devin Fuhring looks to pass the ball in to a teammate in a home game against Emporia State on Nov. 17, 2021. The Lions lost the game 103-102 in double overtime. Photo courtesy of Don Adams Jr.

A storybook career that isn’t finished yet

Devin Fuhring’s road from a torn ACL to entering Lindenwood’s record books

March 15, 2022

Down by three with five seconds left to go, the Lions were in need of late-game heroics. 

The women’s basketball team was hosting the University of Missouri-St. Louis, or UMSL, on Jan. 20, 2020, when Lindenwood was in danger of falling in a critical conference game.

That’s when senior guard Lindsay Medlen passed to an open teammate in front of the Lindenwood bench and as the clock expired to end the fourth quarter, guard Devin Fuhring drilled a three pointer to save the game and send it to overtime.

Forward Kallie Bildner (left) celebrates with guard Devin Fuhring (middle) and guard Jamie Bain during a home game at Hyland Arena. Photo courtesy of Don Adams Jr.

“It was just such an amazing feeling and something I wasn’t sure I would ever get to experience before in my life,” Fuhring said. “I just remember at that point, feeling so good about myself and so happy that I could do something like that for our team.”

Lindenwood won the game 92-86 in overtime after Fuhring’s shot, which she highlighted as one of the top memories of her career so far.

Outside of basketball, Fuhring balances her sport with both school and work. She graduated last year with an undergrad in recreational therapy, and is currently working on her master’s. For the past two years, she’s worked at a nursing home, doing arts and crafts, bingo, and other activities with a geriatric population.

Despite a busy workload off the court, the guard from St. James, Missouri, has had a historic career on the court, becoming one of the top scorers in program history. 

But along with the highs, Fuhring’s time at Lindenwood has consisted of lows too, and has been confronted by adversity throughout her career, including before she had suited up for her first game as a Lindenwood player. 

The first major injury

In the summer of 2017, the women’s basketball team competed in a multi-week summer camp in preparation for the 2017-18 season. During a game against Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, Fuhring suffered an injury that sidelined her for the remainder of the summer.

The injury forced her to be on crutches for a couple of weeks, but after she got away from the crutches, Fuhring said that she slowly started to feel better, still without any idea as to the severity of the injury.

“I started walking around okay, went on vacation, did all of this stuff,” Fuhring said. “I really just had some discomfort and tightness in my hamstring. It wasn’t even really my knee that was bothering me.”

Fuhring didn’t find out the cause of this tightness until she got an MRI when she got back on campus in late-August. What the test results showed was that her injury was a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, in her right knee, and the hamstring was trying to act as her ACL.

“When I found out, honestly I was shocked because it was not what I was expecting,” Fuhring said. “I was scared because I didn’t know what this meant for me and the rest of my basketball career, and if this is something I would be able to come back from. And if I did come back from it, would I ever be the same as I was before.”

The emotions were heavy for Fuhring, but also for those around her, including longtime friend and teammate Kenzie Guese. 

“I was devastated for her because we were both so excited to go in together,” Guese said. 

Devin Fuhring (left) and Kenzie Guese (right) during a spelling bee in elementary school. Photo provided by Kenzie Guese

Guese and Fuhring grew up together in St. James, and have known each other since they were both in third grade. After playing against each other for a couple of years, they first were on a team together in sixth grade. They went on to be teammates through middle school, high school, and eventually at Lindenwood. 

When Fuhring tore her ACL, Guese made sure to be there for her close friend. 

“I wanted her to know that she always had me to help her no matter what,” Guese said. “The day before she had surgery, I took her out to dinner one last time and we had a good meal together, and I remember going straight over to see her right after she got back home from surgery. I was just always trying to be as constant as I could with reassuring her that I was there no matter what.”

The surgery took place in late-September, and sidelined Fuhring for her entire freshman season.

Making progress on a return 

Much of her first year at Lindenwood was spent in the athletic trainer’s room and on the sideline as Fuhring looked to overcome the ACL tear. With the surgery happening early in the school year, the guard had a longer timeline than most to recover, as she had until the next year to get back to full health.

While this meant more time for recovery, Fuhring said that it also made the process feel like it took “forever.” She wasn’t cleared by a doctor until the summer of 2018, 10 months after getting surgery. 

“I never had something that required surgery before and as a freshman, I was just really nervous for what this meant,” Fuhring said. “Coming in as a freshman and having all of these older girls who already experienced playing college ball just sort of having an up on me, I didn’t want to fall more behind.”

Someone who helped her during this time was fellow guard Charisse Williams, who was a junior at the time of Fuhring’s injury. Williams tore her ACL during her sophomore season of high school, giving her experience in what it takes to overcome such a severe injury.  

“The ACL recovery is slow and grueling,” Williams said. “Little talks and encouragement, conversing with her, seeing where her mind was, staying positive around her and when the team was together. You feel like you can’t contribute to the team, but you can contribute through your voice, your actions. You don’t have to play to make an impact.”

Williams was sidelined with an ankle injury around the same time as Fuhring, leading to the two spending weeks together in the athletic trainer’s room. As they recovered from their injuries, their friendship and bond grew. 

Fuhring said that Williams was always supportive, constantly checking in and asking how her rehab was going. Williams also made announcements to the rest of the team on how much Fuhring was able to flex her leg during her recovery.

“The beginning is quite hard,” Williams said. “When you’re in there, you have to bend your leg a lot and it’s painful, so I was encouraging. It’s right after surgery. Just being like, ‘hey, I’ve done it, you can do it, too.’”

Fuhring’s resilience impressed her teammates during this process. Guese said that no one on the 2017-18 roster was putting in more time in the gym than Fuhring in her recovery.

“She’s always been such a resilient person,” Guese said. “On the court, off the court, life, whatever. She was probably in the gym more than anyone else that season because she had to be in the training room doing all of the extra time with therapy and if she wasn’t in the training room doing therapy, she was doing it on the sidelines during practice.”

By the time the end of the season had arrived, Fuhring was getting closer to being back on the court but still had more work to do. Meanwhile, the Lions went on a special run in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, or MIAA, tournament. Lindenwood defeated No. 6 Central Missouri in the quarterfinal before going on to win the conference tournament.

Despite being unable to play, Fuhring said that she gained plenty of positives from being a part of a conference-winning team.

“I feel like I got a taste of what it feels like to be a champion, which I feel like has helped me gain a different mentality,” Fuhring said, “because once you have something like that once, that’s the ultimate goal. You want to reach something like that again, and I feel like that has helped me become the competitor I am today.”

Several months later, Fuhring was given the clearance by the doctor. When the 2018-19 season came around, and with a new coaching staff coming through the door, Fuhring was set to make her return to the court for her college debut.

Back on the floor

Despite being cleared, it took time before Fuhring felt fully comfortable being back on the floor. With no full contact practices or games during the summer, her first real action didn’t come until the start of the preseason. 

Throughout their workouts, Fuhring said she was still working her way back to being 100%. Her teammates, however, didn’t see anything slowing the guard down.

“I feel like she definitely had some mental difficulty with being able to trust her knee again, but you couldn’t tell physically,” Guese said. “She was making back door cuts like she had never even gone through the recovery process.”

First-year head coach Katie Falco was also impressed in her first experience watching Fuhring.

“I remember the first time I saw Devin on the floor, I was like, ‘oh my goodness, this kid is going to be special.’ I went home, I told my husband about her, and I just knew,” Falco said. “I could see how the kid moved, I could see her potential and her athleticism, her speed. She was raw, meaning she hadn’t even begun to tap into her skillset and what kind of player she could become.”

Guard Devin Fuhring goes past Illinois Springfield guard Lauren Ladowski in an attempt to hit a layup off the glass. The Lions hosted the Prairie Stars on Jan. 13, 2022, a game Lindenwood won 82-71. (Photo by Jessica Spivey)

While others marveled as they watched Fuhring fly up and down the court, she was just appreciative of the opportunity to be back playing the game she loves. 

“It was so much of a relief,” Fuhring said. “I was so happy and I remember feeling this wave of appreciation. I said to myself, ‘wow, I will never take something like this for granted ever again.’”

From a coaching perspective, Falco wanted to make sure that Fuhring was in a good headspace. This meant getting her guard back out there so she could trust her knee, gradually working her way to a point where she could be playing without having to worry about her previous injury.

By the time Fuhring got to this stage, Falco saw a player who was determined to make an impact.

“She had a lot to prove, and had a lot to learn with a new system, a new coaching style,” Falco said. “And she was just great. Even from the very beginning, as a freshman, she had key minutes, key opportunities, and it starts from how she got herself ready to go and got in a good head place.”

Fuhring played in all 29 games her freshman season, operating as one of the team’s top options off the bench. The St. James native averaged 14.8 minutes per game, 4.9 points per game, and shot around 41% from the field, which ranked sixth on the Lindenwood roster.

While she wasn’t expecting to get a lot of playing time coming off an injury in her first season, Fuhring said that she was open to any role she was given. 

“When I went out there, I didn’t try and do too much,” Fuhring said. “I just tried to do enough to where my teammates and my coach trust me enough that they can put me out there when I needed to be.”

As a team, the Lions finished the season with a record of 21-8, and qualified for the NCAA Division II tournament. There, they fell in the first round to No. 23 Central Missouri. 

From this point on, Fuhring became a regular face in Lindenwood’s starting lineup, and eventually in the program’s record books.

Historic individual success

Fuhring’s redshirt sophomore season in 2019-20 was her first year as a starter in college. She started all 28 games. Along with the increase in playing time, the guard saw heavy increases all across the board. She was second on the team with 14.2 points per game, and had career-bests in shooting, with a field-goal percentage at 45% and 38% from beyond the three-point line.

Comfortability is the key word Fuhring used to describe what led to her sophomore breakout.

“My big thing my first year starting was that I just felt very comfortable,” Fuhring said. “I felt very confident. I was lucky enough that my knee was feeling really good and in good shape. There was never a time where I felt like I was playing scared of re-injuring my knee.”

Her first year starting was also her first season with Julia Ruzevich, a guard/forward transfer from Orland Park, Illinois. Over the course of the next three years, the two developed a friendship that went beyond the court. 

Ruzevich’s first memory with Fuhring was during her visit at Lindenwood. Ruzevich, and her sister, Kate, were both being recruited by Lindenwood. As they and their parents walked out of Evans Commons to check out the weight room, Fuhring briefly stopped by to introduce herself, which is something Ruzevich said she would never forget.

Julia Ruzevich (left) celebrates with Devin Fuhring after Fuhring’s last-second three pointer on Jan. 20, 2020 in a home game against Missouri St. Louis. Photo courtesy of Don Adams Jr.

“She’s just a sweetheart,” Ruzevich said. “Devin is known to be a sweetheart, everyone knows that about her. She has one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever met.”

It didn’t take long before Fuhring and Ruzevich got close. A couple of months into the 2019-20 season, the team took a trip to Florida. The two were roommates on the trip, where they had strong talks with each other and built a connection.

Since then, their connection has only gotten stronger. 

“Devin’s been my go-to person since I’ve been here,” Ruzevich said. “She’s my best friend. Besides having Kate, I always knew I had Devin.”

They were Lindenwood’s top two scorers in each of the past two seasons, with both averaging over 17.0 points per game in 2020-21. The following season, Ruzevich led the Lions with 20.0 points per game while Fuhring was second with 14.0. The teammates went from being two of the conference’s top offensive players, to becoming two of the most successful offensive players in the history of Lindenwood’s women’s basketball program.

During the 2021-22 season, both Fuhring and Ruzevich joined the 1,000-point club, becoming just the fifth and sixth Lions to do so in their careers. 

“To say that I’ve come from an ACL injury my freshman year to using that redshirt year to reach that 1000th point, it’s like it was meant to happen. I feel like my story was supposed to go this way,” Fuhring said.

Not only did she write her name next to some of the top players to ever suit up for Lindenwood, but she was able to do it with one of her closest friends. 

Devin Fuhring (left) with Julia Ruzevich in the Rockhurst University locker room on Feb. 28 after Lindenwood’s 68-64 loss in the first round of the GLVC tournament to the Hawks. The game was Ruzevich’s last one as a Lion. Photo provided by Julia Ruzevich

“It’s amazing not just because I have so much respect for Julia, and she is one of the best players I’ve ever had the privilege of being able to play with on the court like that, but she’s one of my best friends in the whole world,” Fuhring said.

Ruzevich had similar feelings. 

“For me to get it with her, and that’s my last memory with her on the court,” Ruzevich said, “is definitely going to be so special for me for the rest of my life just because she was there for a huge milestone with me.”

Falco knows that only a select few are capable of accomplishing such a feat in their careers, and that Fuhring possesses the qualities it takes to reach this level.

“To be able to get into the 1000-point club, it takes a really special player,” Falco said. “It takes skill and you have to put time in to get better. It takes focus, it takes work ethic. It takes determination, and it takes a team that can help make you better.

“There’s a lot of talented players out there, but it’s the elite ones that are able to get it done mentally and physically.”

Fuhring credited the balance she’s been able to develop in her game as a reason for the success she’s had at Lindenwood. She has never been considered someone who is just a driver, or someone who only focuses on shooting. Instead, she’s incorporated both into her playing style.

This comes from when Fuhring was younger, and her father would ask her if she were to play against herself, how would she stop herself.

Devin Fuhring (right) looks to drive past a Truman State defender during a home game against the Bulldogs on Jan. 22, 2022. The Lions fell 57-47 in the game. (Photo by Jessica Spivey)

“I’ve always liked that because it made me reflect and realize what skills and things I need to improve on,” Fuhring said. “I liked having that versatility. I think that has always helped me in my game because I’m not the biggest, strongest girl out there. I feel like in a lot of instances, I’m undersized. So working to have an outside presence as well as an inside presence, I feel like is what has helped me be successful at the college level.”

While there were plenty of positives to celebrate throughout her redshirt senior season, the campaign ended in heartbreak, with an all-too similar injury. 

Another major injury

On Feb. 4, Lindenwood hosted No. 4 Drury at Hyland Arena. Fuhring was off to a fast start, scoring 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting with three assists against one of the top teams in the nation.

But before the two teams could get to the halftime break, Fuhring went down. 

Over four years after her first torn ACL, Fuhring tore it again, this time in her left knee.

“Initially, I was in a lot of shock just because it felt a lot different than the first one,” Fuhring said. “But honestly, I think I’ve handled it really well. Obviously I’m sad, devastated really, but I’m not allowing myself to focus on the negatives, instead focus on the positives.”

Those positives include Fuhring feeling as if she’s grown not just physically, but also mentally. She said that she’s grown stronger in both areas since the last time she suffered an ACL tear. And as a result of COVID-19, Fuhring was granted a second additional season. 

“I keep telling myself that I’ve been through it before, so I can go through it again,” Fuhring said. “I have a different mindset, I feel like my body has changed and I’m a lot stronger. And honestly, I have such feelings of appreciation because if it weren’t for me having that extra year of eligibility for COVID, this would be how my career would end.”

Fuhring and those around her are confident in her chances of being on the court again next year. Falco said that the decision to come back for another year was up to Fuhring, who had no hesitation in wanting to return.

“From the very beginning, she’s just got this edge about her, this determination, this will,” Falco said. “She’s frustrated that it happened and she wants to end on a high note. She doesn’t want that to be how her career ends.” 

Fuhring said that she is worried, however, about the timeline being much shorter than her previous injury. Both rehab and recovery will look different, with there not being as much time before the start of the next season as there was in her first year. 

Despite this, she said she never thought about the alternative option of not returning.

“I’m going to try my hardest to come back next year because I don’t want to stop playing basketball,” Fuhring said. “I know it has to come to an end soon, but if I can’t come back next year or if I don’t play next year, it won’t because I didn’t do everything in my power to.

“As heartbroken as I am, I’m not allowing myself to focus on that because all I’m seeing is the end of my recovery and me finishing out my last year of basketball the way I always intended myself doing it.”

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