On Saturday, senior Emily Marsh will play in her final home game as the Braves square off against Indiana State.
When the final buzzer sounds and she departs the floor for the final time, one thing is for sure.
“When she takes her jersey off for the last time … she got her money’s worth,” Bradley head coach Andrea Gorski said. “She definitely has given everything to the team, to the program, to Bradley, and she’s definitely not going to have any regrets because she gives us everything.”
By and large, Marsh’s path through four seasons of Division I basketball has been anything but conventional. Just as her major has been challenging — she’s a biomedical science major looking to apply to P.A. school after taking a year off — she’s also had to deal with three hip surgeries during her time on the Hilltop.
“I could continue to play because … [my teammates] just kind of kept me going all the time,” Marsh said. “There was always a next game — [a] next thing to focus on, always someone cheering me on even when I was on the sidelines and … maybe taking a drill off because it was a little sore.”
Through it all, Marsh has seldom missed a game and has never missed a beat. She played 29 games in each of her first three seasons in red and white and has played a key role this season after missing the first four games while recovering from her most recent surgery.
Before her time as a Brave, Marsh was a River Rat at Huron High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was there that Marsh notched three all-Southeastern Conference selections, was a Detroit News honorable mention all-stater as a senior. In addition to basketball, she lettered in both golf and water polo.
It was also in Michigan that Marsh first developed her love for the sport of basketball, long before the accolades of her high school career or the success of her college career.
“I was in third grade and I played up on, I think it was like a fifth and sixth grade team,” Marsh said. “I didn’t play, really. But I got to play with my two older sisters. And it was really fun. I had a former WNBA player as my coach. She only played two seasons, but I just thought it was the coolest thing ever.”
From that point on, Marsh was all in.
“I was like, this is what I want to do,” Marsh said. “So growing up, I just continued to play as much as I could … I focused in and got an actual strength and conditioning trainer going into my junior year. I think that’s what kind of made the difference because I was more of a guard in high school who guarded the post. And I think when Bradley came to see me, they liked that aspect.”
Bradley certainly did like that aspect, and it showed through the recruiting process.
“I just kind of liked how they kind of laid out what they saw for me,” Marsh recalled. “And they didn’t sugarcoat it, they weren’t like, ‘You’re coming in, you’re starting, you’re doing this,’ … they were kind of honest with what they thought I would provide to the team. They said, ‘To be honest, we think you’d be great.’”
Bradley’s realistic expectations showed right from the jump; while Marsh didn’t start a game during her freshman year, she did play in 29 of the Braves’ 31 games and averaged 2.6 points in just under 36 minutes per game.
Entering her freshman campaign, the Braves were in the second season of head coach Andrea Gorski’s tenure. Prior to the 2020-21 season, Bradley had posted an increase in the win column during every season under Gorski, a testament to the work put in by Marsh and her class.
“The adversity that Emily’s had to go through with having three hip surgeries and missing a lot of summer workouts, missing a lot of games,” fellow senior Gabi Haack said. “She’s always been so positive about everything, she’s never complaining, she’s always in the training room.”
During her freshman campaign, Marsh began to notice pain in her hip. The problem wasn’t anything that couldn’t be handled, and she attributed the affliction to adjusting to the pace of college basketball’s highest level.
Over the course of the following season, Marsh noticed it getting worse. She had torn her labrum before the season and was provided with two options: have surgery and risk missing the season or grind it out.
Noting her competitive nature, Marsh chose the latter.
“We got to December and my other hip started to hurt,” Marsh said, crediting her teammates for helping her out on the court. “Once the season was over, I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t really want to do that again.’ I was like, ‘I think we definitely need to get this checked out.’”
That injury didn’t cost Marsh much time on the floor, but another hip ailment before the current season did. True to her past, Marsh again made her decision for the team.
“After my junior year when I figured out I needed my third surgery, it was just kind of like, ‘Again, can I sit out?’,” Marsh said. “Again, this is a team sport. And for me, obviously, I don’t want to miss my senior year … with COVID, I don’t think I could travel if I didn’t do stuff, so I was always thinking of what I [could’ve] missed.”
With two regular season games and the prospect of a deep postseason run left, Marsh remains focused on the present. When the last buzzer of the final game sounds, she’ll have more than enough time to reflect on the past four years.
And will she ever have a lot to look back on.
“The main thing you think about is like the teammates you’ve had throughout the last four years,” Marsh said. “I’ve been really lucky that, especially as I’ve gone on … I came in with Gabi and Nyjah and some other people. But we’ve gotten really close throughout the years and just as a team every year, I feel like we added new and like people that were really good for our culture, and really good for just being more of a family and like a team unit.”