INDIANAPOLIS — This season has been anything but easy for redshirt senior Shay Colley. Coming into the year, the guard was a Preseason All-Big Ten selection, and expectations were high — but then came the injuries.
Colley was sidelined for most of the year, playing her last big minutes against Indiana on Dec. 28. She spent her time in two places at once, bouncing between East Lansing and Canada while she rehabbed and prepped for the Olympics.
Yes, Colley is an Olympian. She will be on the roster for the Canadian women’s basketball team in the next Olympics.
Then came Feb. 23, when the Spartans met with the University of Michigan in East Lansing.
Nearly two months removed from her last action, Colley took the court after senior guard Taryn McCutcheon asked her to. Her presence was felt immensely, both in the game and as a person.
“Personally, I can’t put into words how much Shay being out there means to me,” McCutcheon said after the game. “I don’t care (about) her performance, I don’t care if she hits shots, just seeing her out on the floor, it is really encouraging for me, because Shay is an unbelievable teammate and I think that there’s a lot of things Shay being out there does besides scoring.”
Playing through injury, showing up for her teammates when they needed her most, Colley defined what being a Spartan was.
She did so again in the Big Ten Tournament Thursday against Purdue.
With a large deficit, Colley willed the Spartans into pushing for a comeback, scoring 14 points in the second half.
“Personally for me to see her out there and for her to be playing with us, that just helps a lot,” McCutcheon said. “She’s another scorer and we were missing that today. When she came in and pushed and made some layups that really got us going and got us on our run.”
Knowing her team needed her, Colley kicked things into gear, just as she had done to make her return against Michigan a few weeks prior.
“Captain Taryn said 'We need to fight, it’s our last 10 minutes out there on the court,'” Colley said. “Just tried to fight for her and fight for the team, that’s what really kicked that gear.”
In the first half, Colley only took one shot. In the second half, once she kicked in that gear, she tried to help her team any way she could.
“I didn’t really get in the game that much in the first half,” Colley said. "I just had to go out there in the second half and show what I could do, how I could help my teammates in any way.”
In the fourth quarter, the Spartans were still down 15. In their first two possessions of the fourth, Colley had four points and swung momentum to their side.
“Obviously, Shay’s a big part of that, we haven’t seen our senior all year,” coach Suzy Merchant said. “It was nice to finally see what a veteran guard can do, how they can put the team on their back, I thought she was a big reason why that happened.”
Although the Spartans lost, Colley and her fellow seniors pushed through adversity.
“Shay plays like a Spartan and that’s what we need,” McCutcheon said. “Wearing this jersey is a privilege, and I think Shay is another person we needed to show that and to show her fight and getting and-ones on people getting rebounds on people who average double-doubles.”
“Her presence on the court, it’s a good thing for the younger girls to look at and see, like this is how you play and this is toughness.”