Some mornings, it’s hard for sophomore point guard Sireece Bass to get out of bed and make it to class. Although this may be a common occurrence for any college student, Bass’s struggles are caused by more than just laziness or a hangover.
Her joints throb with pain, fatigue easily takes hold and she sometimes struggles to breathe.
And on top of all that, Bass has to suit up for basketball practice in the afternoon.
But she just presses on.
As a budding women’s basketball star at Detroit’s Pershing High School, Bass was invited to play in a Nike Skills Camp in Indianapolis after a sensational sophomore season. But while at the camp, Bass fell ill.
Before beginning her junior year of high school, she was diagnosed with lupus, a disease in which the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissue, resulting in inflammation and tissue damage.
In Bass’s case, the effects are tender and sore joints – especially her knees – and trouble breathing from inflammation in her chest.
The situation became life-threatening when her kidney failed toward the end of the summer.
Exhausted, weak and in far too much pain to play basketball, Bass was forced to sit out from the game she loved.
“At first, I was really negative about the situation,” Bass said. “I couldn’t understand why it happened to me. I asked all the questions that anybody would ask when they had an illness. I was mad because I couldn’t play, mad because I couldn’t do normal things and mad because I had to be hospitalized. I was angry about a lot of things.”
Without basketball in her life, Bass could’ve let her ailment get the best of her. But she never gave in to the difficulty of her situation. It has become a common theme in her life. No matter how hard she has to work, Bass won’t ever let up.
Even though she didn’t play at all during her junior season, Bass recovered in time to make an impact on the AAU circuit throughout the summer.
Myriad basketball camps welcomed her that summer, including the Adidas All-American Camp, where she blew away the competition on her way to being recognized as one of the camp’s top-10 players.
With the accolades pouring in, few realized how much Bass’s condition still affected her.
While her kidney was back to normal with the help of medication, lupus itself is an incurable disease. Some days, Bass can compete at the top of her game. On others, she’s forced to battle the fatigue, aches and pains that come with the illness.
It would be easy for Bass to quit on those rough days, but basketball is something she will always need in her life.
“I was away from (basketball) for about three or four months,” Bass said. “That was the worst three or four months of my life. I just couldn’t step away from it. . I had a really good AAU season, so I thought I could make some stuff happen on the college level, and I decided to give it a try.”
The natural choice for Bass was to wear Maize and Blue. Bass said that former Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett had contacted her before the diagnosis and remained dedicated to the young point guard despite her illness.
So, by the time she outperformed the rest of the field in AAU, Burnett and the Wolverines already stuck out in Bass’s mind because they never gave up on her.
Even though Burnett had actively pursued Bass, she wasn’t always certain the Detroit native could recover enough to play at the college level.
“We watched her play in AAU and in the Adidas camp against the very best players in the country, and due to the evaluation, we accepted her verbal (commitment), knowing that compromises would have to be made,” Burnett said. “We didn’t know to what extent, but neither did she at that point.”
Current coach Kevin Borseth said at Michigan Media Day that he hadn’t yet experienced how much Bass’s disability affects her ability to play on the court. But he has had players with medical issues before, so he’s ready to handle the added challenges.
“How do you describe it?” Borseth said. “Those kids are of a pretty tough breed. They really are. And again, I knew Sireece has difficulty with lupus, but I really haven’t experienced any of that yet.”
Although she has contributed to the team, Bass missed numerous practices and games last season with what Burnett referred to as “bad days” when Bass’s joints were very sore.
“She wishes she was at 100 percent,” Burnett said. “She loves to play. She struggles with the fact that she knows she can play at a higher level.”
But Bass isn’t about to let her condition get her discouraged.
“Regardless of how I feel, coach is going to evaluate me the same as someone that’s healthy,” Bass said.
Fortunately for Bass, she has encouraging teammates to help her through tough times.
And while her teammates always help her with her bad days, Bass’s reluctance to quit inspires those around her to play at the top of their game.
“She encourages me to do better with my life,” sophomore LeQuisha Whitfield said. “The (Iowa) game (last year), Sireece could hardly breathe and she still wanted to play. She’s inspiring because it’s like, if she can fight through something like that, I can fight through anything that comes at me.”
While Sireece Bass’s condition may sometimes impede her on the court, she’ll never let it get to her spirit.
She just presses on.