Feeling better just when Illini need her the most

Feeling better just when Illini need her the most

CHAMPAIGN — Illinois guard Petra Holesinska ran into the shoulder of a Western Illinois player on Nov. 21. She knew immediately that something wasn't right.

"I was kind of dizzy after it," she said.

Her coaches and teammates asked her, "Are you OK?"

"I was like, 'It's fine,' " Holesinkska said.

She stayed in the game. That's what athletes do. They play through the pain and figure it will get better. But it didn't. Holesinska had a sleepless night and was sick to her stomach.

"I felt like I was going to throw up, but I didn't," Holesinska said.

The next morning, she went to see the Illinois medical staff.

The diagnosis: Holesinska suffered a concussion.

The first of her Illinois career and the second of her life. She had one when she was a kid.

"The first few days was kind of hard because my head was hurting and I couldn't sleep," Holesinska said. "It was hard to concentrate and do normal stuff, like drive."

The sophomore missed four games, including a tournament in New Mexico shortly after Thanksgiving and the Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup against Virginia Tech last Thursday.

While the team was gone Thanksgiving week, Holesinska stayed in Champaign. She spent the holiday with the men's basketball team.

Holesinska didn't want to sit out. But she failed the concussion test.

"It's a computer test and it tries your memory, your reactions," Holesinska said.

Holesinska said she understands why the school is cautious when it comes to concussions.

She appreciates the care.

"You need your brain after your career," Holesinska said. "That's good to recover well and play when you're ready."

Holesinska was cleared to play for Sunday's game at Memphis. She scored 12 points in a 63-47 victory, hitting a trio of three-pointers and playing 26 minutes."I think I could have shot better," said Holesinka, who was 3 of 12 overall. "It was all right. I'm happy we got a road win, which was really important."

Illinois first-year coach Nancy Fahey was thrilled to have her back.

"Her I.Q. and her ability to shoot the three is definitely a help for us," Fahey said.

Tonight at 7, Holesinska plays her first home game since the injury.

Illinois (6-4) hosts Indiana State (2-5) at State Farm Center. Holesinska is averaging 7.8 points per game, tied for fourth on the team.

Her numbers have dipped from her freshman season, when she averaged 10.5 points while starting all but two games.

This season, she has made one start.

Holesinska likes the direction of the team in Fahey's first season at Illinois.

"I feel like we play so much faster," Holesinska said. "Our defense is so much better because we try to deny every first pass, which is different from last year when we were in gaps. I feel like it helps."

Holesinska's skillset fits with Fahey's style.

"I want to play fast," she said. "We take a lot of threes, quick shots. That's what I like to do."

Holesinska, is far from her native Vracov, Czech Republic.

Her parents, Petr and Marketam, and older sister, Michaela, are coming to C-U in January for an extended visit.

Being away from home when she was hurt was difficult for Holesinska. Her mom is a nurse and would normally take care of her.

"She knows all this stuff," Holesinska said.