Dueck's comeback from a torn ACL inspires teammates and influences her career path

Julie Dueck lines up for a free throw during a game earlier this season (Railene Hooper photo).
Julie Dueck lines up for a free throw during a game earlier this season (Railene Hooper photo).

Jason Hills 
For MacEwan Athletics 
EDMONTON – Sometimes life as an athlete can just be downright cruel. But, with every setback, there is always room for a nice comeback story. 

Julie Dueck worked incredibly hard to reach her goal of playing university basketball, and in her rookie season at MacEwan in 2021-22, it ended, before it she barely stepped on the floor. 

A devastating knee injury, just two weeks into the season forced her down a long road to recovery, but she's back and enjoying her first full season with the Griffins. 

"We had just finished playing MRU and Calgary, and that year we had a lot of veterans (fourth and fifth years), so there weren't a lot of minutes to go around for the rookies," recalled Dueck. 

"We had just played Calgary, and I remember scoring my first-career bucket and got my first assist that weekend, and then on the first practice on the Monday, I tore my ACL. I was devastated." 

Her season was over after playing just 10 minutes. 

Dueck spent the next 15 months recovering from her knee injury. It was her first major injury of her career, and it was hard to deal with not only physically, but mentally as well. 

She had just moved away from home, and it wasn't like her family was a short drive away either. Her family support system was back in Abbotsford, BC. 

"It was tough, I had just moved out, and was living away from my parents. I came here to play basketball, and that was taken away from me, but I tried to deal with it the best way I could," said Dueck. 

"I stuck to the rehab process and worked hard to prep(are) myself for surgery. It was a long haul, but I just tried to control what I could control. 

"When I got back to basketball, I really appreciated the little things that come with it. When you go through an injury like that, you're forced to break down the small wins to get through it, but it's super rewarding now." 

Dueck returned to the court on Jan. 27 of last year and played 10 regular season games. 

She averaged 2.8 points, 1.2 rebounds, while averaging 12.4 minutes per game. She set a career-high on Feb.11 against Regina, last year. 

This year, she's averaging 4.4 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. 

Julie Dueck is averaging 4.4 points a game this season (Robert Antoniuk photo).

The Griffins (0-10) will face the Brandon Bobcats (0-12) on Friday (8 p.m.) and Saturday (5 p.m., David Atkinson Gym, both Canada West TV).

UPDATE: Friday's game has been postponed due to the weather.


"Coming back last year in the second semester, I felt slow and a bit sluggish, and my defence wasn't where it needed to be," said Dueck. 

"This year, I'm feeling a lot more like myself. My defence is back where it needs to be. I'm feeling comfortable in what I can do. The deer in headlights feel when you're a rookie is gone." 

It's been a tough first half of the season for MacEwan, who have one of the youngest rosters in the Canada West conference, but for someone like Dueck, she's embracing the opportunity to take on a bigger role on the team this year. 

"I think the biggest lesson we're learning so far this year is our level of compete needed for 40 minutes to stay with these teams in the conference. Teams will take advantage of you. You can be within two points, and if you let up, suddenly, you're down 10," said Dueck. 

"There are a lot of new faces on our roster, and we're still learning how to play with one another, learning our offensive flow. It's been a big learning curve for us, but one thing we can be proud of is how our defence has come a long way. We want to make teams work for every bucket they get." 

Dueck grew up in the small town of Hepburn, Sask., located just 45 kilometres north of Saskatoon. Living on the Prairies, and in a town with a population of roughly 500, there isn't much to do, so Dueck found her love for not just basketball, but all sports. 

"Anyone who wanted to play, could play. That's one of the awesome things about growing up in such a small town, there's not much to do, but play sports," said Dueck, who also played volleyball, track and field and was a figure skater. 

"It showed me how much I love competing, and training and how much I have a passion for sports in general." 

Julie Dueck cheers from the bench as Mady Chamberlain hits the game-winning shot against Calgary in an iconic moment for MacEwan women's basketball on Nov. 12, 2021. Dueck unfortunately tore her ACL in practice following that weekend and went through a 15-month recovery process to get back on the court (Robert Antoniuk photo).

Dueck left her small-town life on the prairies when her family moved to the lower mainland and mountains, in Abbotsford, BC. 

While there were certainly adjustments to moving from a small town to a bigger city, her biggest adjustment came when she attended Yale Secondary high school. 

"I went from a school of 200 kids from K-12 to a school with over 1,200 students. We had around 400, just in our graduating class," said Dueck. 

But the sharp-shooting guard excelled on the court with the Yale Lions. She drove to the rim, shot the three, and defensively, she was always in charge of guarding the opposition's best player. 

Now at the university level, Dueck is a player that head coach Katherine Adams relies on for energy, and hustle, and she can certainly hit from long range, connecting on 30.8% from beyond the arc. 

"When I was in high school, I was a player that was able to do a bit of everything, but at this level, I quickly realized that I can't get to the rim as much as a smaller player, so I had to work on my three-point shot," said Dueck. 

"I'm learning that every time I get to the paint, shooting isn't my first option, I'm more looking to pass. I really had to learn that in my first year." 

Off the court, Dueck is majoring in biology and minoring in psychology, and while she always had an interest in physical therapy, having gone through a major injury and recovery process, made her realize even more that was the career path she wanted to go down. 

"Going through the major injury that I did, I got to see the whole process up close," said Dueck. 

"I would love to be able to help people step-by-step. It's an incredibly difficult process, but I've been through it, and I want to help people get back to how they want to live their life."