Grief and basketball

Freshman guard Erica Covile overcomes personal injury, tragedy.

Freshman guard Erica Covile drives to the basket in a 74-67 win against Syracuse on Dec. 2, when she scored five points in 24 minutes. Covile’s father, Lewis Covile, Jr., passed away in August 2012. | MAGGIE TRAPANI TTN
Freshman guard Erica Covile drives to the basket in a 74-67 win against Syracuse on Dec. 2, when she scored five points in 24 minutes. Covile’s father, Lewis Covile, Jr., passed away in August 2012. | MAGGIE TRAPANI TTN

Freshman forward Erica Covile knows a thing or two about overcoming grief and adversity.

Covile, currently sidelined with a a dislocated knee, lost her father, Lewis Covile, Jr., on Aug. 23, 2012, to a battle with multiple medical issues.

“He was very sick. He had so many things wrong with him,” Covile said. “Heart failure, kidney failure, carpal tunnel. His heart just stopped.”

Despite suffering a personal loss less than a week before her first semester of classes began, Covile trudged on. When she felt no need to continue playing basketball, friends and family convinced her otherwise.

“I really wanted to stop playing basketball since he passed,” Covile said. “But people told me he would have wanted me to move on, so I kept playing.”

As one of six freshmen on the team, Covile has arguably emerged as the most promising. She played in all 16 games, making six starts, prior to suffering her injury during a weekend road trip to Duquesne on Jan. 20.

In Temple’s (8-11, 1-3 Atlantic 10 Conference) blowout win against Western Michigan on Jan. 7, Covile scored a career high 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting. Two games later, on Jan. 16 in a loss to Virginia Commonwealth University, she grabbed a career high 12 rebounds.

However, as is the case with many rookies, Covile has also had her share of struggles and inconsistencies on the court. In the midst of the Owls’ six-game road trip, her playing time steadily began to decline.

On Dec. 21 against Villanova, a game in which she started, Covile was pulled after three minutes. The next game, on Dec. 29 against Michigan State, she played just one minute. Covile snapped out of her funk against Howard on Jan. 4, scoring five points in 20 minutes of play.

“[Getting less playing time] was because of my defense,” Covile said. “Coach wanted me to play harder. I wasn’t doing that, but I changed.”

In the week leading up the game against Duquesne on Jan. 20, Covile’s rookie season suffered a setback when a teammate landed on her in practice. She came away with a dislocated knee and has been limping around in a brace since. Doctors have urged her to sit out two months, but the team has not officially ruled her out for the remainder of the season.

Coach Tonya Cardoza hopes to have Covile available again at some point, but also understands the risks of springing her back into action too soon.

“Knock on wood, hopefully [Covile] will be able to play again,” Cardoza said. “But if guys can continue to step up and do what we ask, then there’s really no need for her to rush back.”

In Covile’s absence, freshmen forwards Sally Kabengano and Jacquilyn Jackson have seen their roles increase. Kabengano scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 37 minutes in the win against Penn on Jan. 23, while Jackson brought in a career high eight rebounds in 28 minutes. In the loss to La Salle on Jan. 27, Kabengano, better known for her defense, held Explorers’ senior guard Brittany Wilson, who was averaging 18 points per game, to eight points. Jackson had seven points and five rebounds, playing 28 minutes for the second-straight game.

Senior center Victoria Macaulay believes both Kabengano and Jackson are more than capable of filling Covile’s role, she said.

“I believe [Kabengano and Jackson] have been stepping up lately and doing their parts in order to help the team,” Macaulay said. “It seems to me that they have more confidence in themselves. They are more aggressive offensively and defensively.”

As the only senior on the team, Macaulay took Covile under her wing, knowing she was playing with a heavy heart.

“I always tried to talk to [Covile] to give her positive input about how she’s playing because I know she wants to win and I knew she wanted to get better,” Macaulay said. “I always tried to build her confidence back up.”

Lewis Covile, Jr., left behind nine children and eight grandchildren back in Canton, Mich., about 20 miles west of Detroit. Erica Covile said her family has remained very close since the death of her father. Much like how Erica didn’t quit, her twin brother, Eric, continues to play basketball at a local community college. Covile said her mother, Dara Covile, “cries a lot” but continues to cope with the loss of her husband.

Flashing back to the day of Aug. 23, Erica Covile’s first Tweet since learning her father had passed read, “He didn’t even get to see me play at Temple.” Her Twitter name remains dedicated to her late father: “R.i.p Coach-Dad.”

Tyler Sablich can be reached at or on Twitter @TySablich.

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