A torn labrum, broken ankle and broken knuckle in a 16-month span were enough.
So Cal (Pa.) basketball player Seairra Barrett opted for lots of milk, protein and vitamins before this season in an attempt to shield herself from more injuries.
“In my head, something wasn’t right because I kept on breaking all these bones,” Barrett said. “It was so frustrating. I just pushed through because I worked too hard in the summer. I worked way too hard in the summer that I was not going to give up.”
Lucky for the Vulcans — and not so lucky for the rest of the PSAC — Barrett didn’t. The Central Valley graduate is stronger than ever, putting up All-American-type numbers as a fifth-year senior. The 6-foot Barrett is averaging 23.7 points (second in the league, sixth in NCAA Division II), 8.7 rebounds (second in the league) and 3.2 steals (first in the league, 10th in D-II).
“Seairra’s just a beast,” said guard Gina Vallecorsa, a Bishop Canevin grad who is the team’s second-leading scorer with 10.1 points per game. “She does so much for us. It’s just so much fun to play with her because she’s so good.”
Cal (17-1, 11-1) is ranked 12th in the nation and handed No. 1 IUP (16-1, 11-1) its first loss of the season last week. Barrett led the team with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“For us, defensively, she’s kind of the rock,” Vulcans coach Jess Strom said. “She’s talking every possession. She helps everybody out.
“And I think her athleticism really plays into the way we play. She’s really hard to guard because she has developed a mid-range game. She can shoot consistently, so you have to guard her from the 15-foot range. And if you guard her, she’s really, really quick to the rim and can finish.”
Despite the gaudy numbers, Barrett’s biggest improvement this season is her leadership, a byproduct of the year away, Strom said.
Barrett tore her right labrum during a workout in May 2017 and underwent surgery a month later. The rehab lasted well into the 2017-18 season, so Barrett elected for a medical redshirt rather return for half a year. During the time off, Barrett said she observed player interactions in practice and wondered how she could improve her leadership style.
“I think she has learned to deal with people better, read her teammates and what they need at that time,” Strom said. “Do they need a kick in the butt? Or do they need a pat on the back? I think she’s finally realized that people need both.”
Barrett broke her ankle while rebounding for teammates during a drill last winter, then broke a knuckle in the fall. In the season opener, though, there were no signs of rust as she scored a personal-best 41 points in a win against West Liberty. It’s been more of the same since for a player who was an honorable-mention All-American as a junior and the PSAC West Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore. In 2014-15, she helped Cal win the national title and earned PSAC West Freshman of the Year.
“I feel like, yeah, I’ve done a lot, but I could always do more,” said Barrett, who has five games of 30 or more points this season. “I think I can score more. I can be more productive when it comes to getting rebounds, be a little more active offensively.”
After graduating with a degree in accounting in May, Barrett could have moved on with life. But she chose to return and is pursuing a master’s in entrepreneurship. Her dedication isn’t lost on teammates.
“It shows what type of team player she is and how much she loves it here and how much she loves being around us,” Vallecorsa said. “It shows her strength not to give up on such a young program.”
Barrett hopes to play professionally after the season, but first things first: chasing another national title.
“Coach (Strom) and I were talking about showing the girls film from that (2014-15) season to show them the type the intensity and difference of how we played back then and now to give them a different mindset and aspect of what Cal expects,” she said. “Because you don’t really know. I’m the only one left. They might think they’re doing OK, but really, they could be doing more.
“The talent is definitely there.”
Jeff Vella is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at [email protected] or via Twitter @JeffVella_Trib.