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Nobles battles through illness to return for Lady Raiders

The Texas Tech center was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome before the season.

Posted: December 19, 2012 - 7:37pm  |  Updated: December 20, 2012 - 1:09am
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Shauntal Nobles’ six minutes on the floor in a Dec. 1 win against Lamar were all business.

After the game, a come-from-behind 73-52 win, Nobles could finally reflect on her first minutes of the season.

“I just imagined where I was two or three weeks ago,” she said earlier this week, the first time she’s spoken to the media this season.

Two or three weeks ago, she was in some of the worst pain of her life, struggling to play the game she’s molded her life around.

Uncertain illness

Nobles was projected to be Texas Tech’s starting center this season after averaging nearly seven points and six rebounds a game last year.

The Haslet native and redshirt junior spent the offseason practicing with the team in preparation for a hopefully fruitful year for Lady Raider basketball.

Just weeks before the start of the season, Nobles started feeling pain, cramps and eventually numbness throughout her body. She visited with the trainers, underwent blood work and eventually got in touch with a specialist.

“I knew there was something wrong,” Nobles said, “but I didn’t know what was wrong with my body at all.”

The uncertainty was the worst part.

Once Nobles finally was diagnosed, though, it gave the Lady Raider and her teammates a sense of relief.

But it also started a new battle.

“They did blood work several times, which didn’t tell us anything,” Nobles said. “My trainer (Larry Munger) went out and tried to find out as much as he could and finally set me up with an (Electromyography test) and the EMG basically told me what I needed to know, and the next morning I saw the neurologist, who confirmed that I had Guillain–Barré.”

Guillain–Barré syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the nervous system.

It causes extreme fatigue and aches. It is not curable, but is treatable.

Every case of Guillain–Barré is different, and there is no set timetable for recovery.

“I was just happy they put a name to it finally,” said Nobles, fighting back tears. “Of course afterward it was little scary.”

More than a game

Tech coach Kristy Curry knows basketball is secondary a lot of times. Behind academics and the coming-of-age college experience, Curry must juggle building a winning basketball team while still molding well-rounded leaders.

For Nobles, an MBA student and All-Big 12 Conference academic honoree, basketball is still first.

Basketball is what keeps Nobles going.

“Honestly at first it was like the end of the world,” Nobles said. “Believe it or not, basketball’s my motivation for a lot of things in my life. I’ve been playing since I was seven. It was frustrating, especially when people kept saying ‘you have to be positive, it’s going to be a long process but be positive. Just work through it, and everything’s going to be OK.’ And you know, you want everything to be OK right now.”

Nobles could have quit. She could have packed it in and taken a “woe is me” approach. But that isn’t her style.

When she was struggling before her diagnosis, it would have been easy for her teammates to question her dedication, too. That isn’t their style, either.

“It would be very easy for one of those kids to say ‘oh she’s just being lazy’ or ‘she doesn’t care about what we’re doing,’” Curry said. “Everybody knows her so well. Just to see the trust and the love amongst them has been amazing. To know that they support her through good days and bad days, and so it’s brought our team closer together. I think that’s one positive.”

Teammate and roommate Christine Hyde said the team knew what Nobles needed through some of the tough days. Encouragement is all they could offer. Hyde is a bit of a realist, though, and wasn’t going to sugarcoat anything. Hyde was going to make sure Nobles was going to be fit before she risked coming back to the court.

“We were able to come together for her,” said Hyde, who has had to move into the post this season, “cheer her on, be positive and it was a slow start. It was very slow. In my opinion, I was like, ‘if she’s not ready to come back and if her body’s not allowing her to come back, then she doesn’t need to be out there and forcing things ... The team was behind her. I was definitely behind her like before she is now. That just shows you what your family can do.”

The road ahead

Nobles played a season-high 12 minutes in Sunday’s 68-41 win against Northern Colorado.

Curry has to take Nobles’ performances game by game, but the center says the worst is definitely behind her. Curry said Nobles had her best day of practice the day before the win.

Nobles’ return to form couldn’t have come at better time, either.

The Lady Raiders face their biggest test of the season at 4:30 p.m. today against Michigan State in the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops tournament. They begin Big 12 play Jan. 2.

Nobles still has a ways to go, but the team is confident about her return.

“I’m excited that she’s able to play — that in itself is all I wanted,” Hyde said. “I told (former Lady Raider Kierra Mallard) she’s going to be good. She’s going to be an established post player coming out of the Big 12 and this was just a setback — and I’m not just thinking present, I’m thinking future. I still feel like she’s going to be that established post player, big time, in the Big 12. So I’m happy that she’s back.”

Nobles believes she can go back to the player she was before the illness first struck in the next six months.

She also says she can be the player Hyde envisions. All it is going to take is some hard work, which Nobles is no stranger to.

“I’m going to do my best,” Nobles said. “I’m a hard worker, so I’m doing to do my best to achieve that goal.”

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Women’s basketball

Who: Michigan State vs. Texas Tech

When: 4:30 p.m. today

Where: South Point Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.

Records: Michigan State 10-1; Tech 8-1

Last meeting: Tech 78, Michigan State 64 on Dec. 21, 1988

Radio: KLZK 97.3 FM

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