As William Shakespeare once wrote, "some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." Yet for basketball standout Jill Henrikson '12, it was a sidelining injury that made all the difference.
She had been averaging a team-leading 14.8 points per game and .520 three-point percentage heading into Thursday's game against Colby-Sawyer, with 4.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 23.3 minutes. She led or co-led Bowdoin in scoring in four of the team's first six games, and was named the Maine Women's Basketball Coaches Association Player of the Week last week.
"I started playing basketball when my parents got me into a rec league when I was really young," she said, "but as time went on it became an outlet for me from academics. At Bowdoin it's nice to play because there's such a big course load and being on the court allows me to forget about all the classwork."
A 5'8" shooting guard, Henrikson cited the fast-paced nature of basketball and the way she is always actively involved when on the court as her favorite aspects of the sport.
"Through playing basketball at Bowdoin, I think I've gained...better court awareness and have learned to be more composed and less rushed on the court," she said.
Growing up in nearby Bath, Henrikson played for her high school team and an AAU squad, the New England Crusaders. She traveled to New Hampshire every weekend for the AAU practices, and most of those teammates are now playing in college.
Her senior year of high school, Henrikson was one of three finalists for the Miss Maine Basketball Award, the state's highest honor for the sport.
As a first year, Henrikson was one of two Jills on the team, so she acquired the nickname Ricky because of her last name. She started 11 games and her playing time increased as the season progressed. Her season averages were 9.2 points and 2.7 rebounds per game, with a three-point shooting percentage of .309 and a field goal rate of .408 overall.
That year, she was named NESCAC Rookie of the Year and was the only first year awarded a spot on the All-Conference Second Team. Bowdoin won the NESCAC Championship with a 49-46 win over Amherst, and Henrikson scored 11 points in that game.
Four games into her sophomore season, things took a turn for the worse. She partially tore her ACL while playing, and after some time off, fully tore it when she tried to practice again. An extensive rehabilitation included strength and conditioning on campus over the summer, and she was only just cleared to play in time for preseason this fall.
"I tried hard to run every day," she said. "It helped that the team had routine workouts in the fall with pick-up games three times a week, because I wanted to get into the best shape possible heading into the first official practices."
While supporting her team from the sidelines, Henrikson gained important insight on the game of basketball itself.
"It was nice to be off the court because watching your team gives you a really new perspective on the game," she said, "and I think it actually improved my game a lot."
Henrikson has now developed into a vocal leader on the court, and is a skilled outside shooter. She is a versatile player, who also prides herself on driving to the hoop and being an outside defender.
"She provides so much to this team, lending tenacity and a positive outlook to the other players," said coach Adrienne Shibles. "She has also has been incredibly consistent thus far, which is one of the best compliments a coach can give a player.
"Though her knee injury last year forced her into a role that was difficult, she was an important leader from the bench and in the locker room and has become a more consummate player," she added.
The first games of the year, the Salem State Tip-Off Tournament, were key gauges for Henrikson. She averaged 14.5 points in her first on-court action in almost 12 months, and after losing the opener by four points, Bowdoin won its second game by 41.
In the team's 82-55 win over the University of New England the day before Thanksgiving break, Henrikson felt that "everything really came together for us and we played strong the entire game. It was a really nice way to go into the break and have a few days off before a bunch of December games."
Since the opening loss, the Polar Bears have won all six of their games and are currently ranked No. 24 in the country in D-III.
"I want for us to go into every game with the confidence knowing we can beat the team we play every day," Henrikson said. "Our team's trust is important, because if we can work together, we will do the best we can."
These days, nobody confuses this Jill with anyone else on the basketball court.