Riverhead’s Michaela Ligon commits to Mount Saint Vincent basketball

Riverhead girl’s basketball star Michaela Ligon will take her playing career to the next level having committed to the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx. Getting there however, was no easy task.

Following a steal midway through her junior season, Ligon went sprinting down the court on a fast break. As she went for the layup and planted her right foot, Ligon’s knee buckled and gave out on her.

“At that moment I knew I tore something,” Ligon said. “One of my travel teammates had just recently tore her ACL. So my first instinct was that I tore something and I knew it was going to be bad.”

Ligon’s family was at the game and came running to her side along with the trainer. They immediately took her to the trainer’s office.

“I know some people say they don’t have that much pain when they suffer a tear right away,” Ligon said. “But I was in an excruciating amount of pain.”

After x-rays and an MRI, it was confirmed. Ligon had suffered a torn ACL as well as some sprained ligaments. After averaging 15 points per game during her junior season, a year in which colleges do most of their scouting, her hopes for a collegiate career looked dashed. 

“That summer was going to be my breakout summer,” Ligon said of her plans to play in the highly competitive Amateur Athletic Association. “I was going to get in front of a ton of college coaches. I was really heartbroken. Mentally I was struggling a lot. I didn’t know how to sit still.”

Recovery from the nagging injury spilled over into her final season as a Blue Wave. Although she attended every game and practice for Riverhead, her knee still hasn’t fully healed.

“I ended up getting two surgeries,” Ligon said. “One to fix the tear and the other to remove scar tissue. Right now, I’m recovering from bone bruising that’s taking a while to heal so they may have to go back in to make sure I didn’t mess anything up in my rehab.”

Even without playing basketball for a full year, there were coaches still willing to take the risk for the potential reward. Ligon was named as one of Newsday’s Long Island Top 100 girl’s basketball players. But despite not playing half of her junior year, she had plenty of game tape, having played on the varsity level since her freshman year and as a member of the Long Island Lightning, an AAU all-star team that travels all over the region. 

“A week after I tore my ACL, I started reaching out to college coaches,” Ligon said. “I started focusing on schools that had the majors I wanted and I knew I wanted to go to Division III where I can focus more on my academics.”

Mount Saint Vincent’s head coach, Maria Nardulli, saw her highlight reel on an app intended to help athletes get recruited and immediately reached out. 

“She’s seen my tape and seen what I am capable of doing before my injury,” Ligon said. “She’s been in the loop with my whole rehab and everything that’s been going on. She feels that I’m going to be even better when I come back. She made me feel like she really wanted me.”

Nardulli was immediately convinced that Ligon was the right fit.

“Michaela has a spark and energy that lit up the room when I first met her,” Nardulli said. “Her determination and excitement for the game is something I loved from the beginning.”

And Ligon’s game tape spoke for itself.

“Michaela’s ability to distribute the ball to her teammates and the skillful way she can put the ball in the basket are a few reasons why she is a great fit,” Nardulli said. “Her ability to play both ends of the floor and play multiple positions truly impressed me.”

Though Ligon isn’t able to hit the floor just yet, she is hoping she will be ready for her first collegiate season. She’s fully committed to getting back to 100%.

“I’m hoping to make some kind of an impact on my team as a freshman,” Ligon said. “After I’m fully healed, I need to get my conditioning up to game level.”

For now, it’s more rehab ahead for Ligon. Once she gets stronger, she’ll slowly return to the court and get to hear that swish of the net once again.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Ligon said. “I truly believe that. I know I’ll be back better than ever.”