One minute, 22 seconds. Those numbers have been etched into Erika Brumfield’s mind for nearly two years.
It’s the exact amount of time she played her senior season of basketball at W.F. West in 2018-19. Brumfield, a 6-foot-3 post, went up for a rebound in the season opener, landed sideways on her left ankle and her knee pushed in. She felt a pop and crack. Her knee was instantly on fire.
“I like to say I’m pretty tough and have a high pain tolerance, but as soon as I hit the ground I was like, ‘Oh, this is not OK. Something is wrong,’” Brumfield said.
She immediately started yelling for her dad, Taj Brumfield, the varsity assistant coach who was filling in as head coach that game. It would take two separate surgeries to repair her torn ACL and lateral meniscus.
It was a disheartening blow for Erika and the Bearcats who were defending state champions after she poured in 16 points in a state title win over Archbishop Murphy just eight months previously. Erika was coming off a first-team all-2A Evergreen Conference selection, a Chronicle all-area pick and was the Bearcats leading scorer and rebounder as a junior.
Luckily, she had signed with Division I Portland State University just seven days before her season-ending injury. The luck didn’t last. Eight months later when she arrived at Portland State the following summer after graduating high school, Erika tore her lateral meniscus again during a summer session workout with the Vikings and had to undergo her third surgery in less than a year.
It derailed Erika’s freshman season and forced her to redshirt that year. She had surgery in September 2019, just two days before her call-back date for when players were required to be back on campus. She spent that winter attending every practice and game with the Vikings. It’s what carried her mentally through the rehab process.
“It was blessed to have really good teammates at Portland State,” Erika said. “The class I came in with, they were really supportive of me. They always had my back. I’m thankful the coaching staff and the whole program hung on to me for as long as they did and all the time they invested in me. I really appreciate all they did for me.”
Fast forward to August 2020 and Brumfield was having trouble getting cleared to play by Portland State. She feared if she stayed, she may be sidelined another season. So she decided it was time for a new beginning, a fresh start, and entered the transfer portal a little over a week ago.
The first coach to contact her was Randi Richardson-Thornley, head coach of Central Washington University. Richardson-Thornley actually recruited Erika while she was still at W.F. West and Erika had taken an unofficial visit to the Ellensburg campus while still in high school. So when Richardson-Thornley saw her name in the portal she called Erika up and said she still wanted her.
“I recruited Erika out of high school because of the obvious reasons of her size, athleticism, skill and the fact that she’s an awesome young lady,” Richardson-Thornley said in an email Tuesday. “However, what sold me most on Erika is the energy and effort in which she plays with. Our program is on the hunt to compete for a Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship, and I know in order to do that we have players who compete with great energy and effort every single day — and that is who Erika Brumfield is.”
Since Central is a Division-II program, Erika is eligible to play this upcoming school year without sitting out a season, which was also big factor in her decision-making.
“I talked to my parents and prayed about it and decided that was going to be a better fit for me and my career in order for me to succeed,” Erika said. “I really liked how Randi ran her program. One of my club teammates plays for her right now and I have another friend who had played for her, and they just couldn’t say enough good things about coach Randi, so I said, ‘You know, that’s where I want to go.’”
Erika is joining a Central team that has qualified for the GNAC tournament six consecutive years. The fifth-seeded Wildcats went 19-11 this spring, advancing to the GNAC semifinals before bowing out against top-seeded Alaska Anchorage.
Two years of studying games from the bench, including watching her younger sister, Drea Brumfield, who is now a standout sophomore for the Bearcats, has paid off in ways she never imagined. She’s learned not only about herself but about life in general; lessons she will keep close for a long time.
“Sitting on the bench for two years, you really do learn a lot,” Erika said. “Not being out there is obviously heartbreaking, but I got to learn about the game and see it from a different perspective. The biggest takeaway from these past two years is you can’t ever take any second of any practice or workouts for granted, because in an instant it can be taken away from you. You just can’t ever take the game for granted.”
One minute, 22 seconds finally received some resolution for Erika on Thursday when she was cleared by doctors to play again. It’s a day she’s been waiting two years for.
“I’ve been counting down the days,” Erika said. “To be able to go through a practice with my shoes on and my knee pads, with the practice uniform on and getting past the warmups knowing that I actually get to participate, I’m so excited. I never thought I’d say this but I’m excited to condition, to run lines and work hard again because I’ve been missing that a lot. I can’t wait.”