Sunday, in the Michigan women’s basketball team’s matchup against Nebraska, freshman guard Boogie Brozoski entered the game with 5:10 left in the first quarter. Multiple players on the floor were sporting headbands, but Brozoski’s headwear was different.
She was wearing a clear, plastic mask. It was her first time donning the face-protecting accessory as a Wolverine, but Brozoski has worn it in the past.
During her high school days in New York, Brozoski broke her nose twice. Injuries are nothing new to her — she also fractured her hip in eighth grade. But despite the two nose injuries, she never missed a game in high school. Brozoski was able to play through the injury and after-effects of the pain because of the mask. Playing with it on wasn’t simple, though, and she had to get used to it.
“I had to get used to sweating a lot, keeping it on when it’s sweaty, and taking it off really quick and wiping it off,” Brozoski said. “Visibility was something I had to get used to as well, but it was a smooth adjustment (this week).”
In practice Friday, Brozoski was hit in the face by as inadvertent elbow. She describes her current injury to her nose as a small fracture, and she chose to wear the mask for protection from further injury on the court.
Her mother had the mask she wore in high school shipped to Ann Arbor in time for Sunday’s contest. Though the mask is the same, Brozoski has no sentimental value attached to it. She’s used to playing with it on, and the routine that comes with it, but she would rather play with no obstructions to her comfort or visibility.
Some well-known NBA players have sported many different styles of the mask after facial injuries. Long time Pistons shooting guard Richard Hamilton wore one after breaking his nose in Detroit’s 2003-04 championship season. And even after Hamilton’s nose healed, he wore the mask until he retired nine seasons later. Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and many other players have had to wear it for shorter time spans. LeBron James even wore a black, carbon-fiber one, different than the more common clear one Brozoski wears.
Brozoski has no plans to wear the mask after her nose heals, but she found the transition to wear it for the meantime easy because of her previous experiences playing with it.
“I don’t really like it that much,” Brozoski said. “But if I have to wear it for protection, I will. It’s not something I would prefer to wear.”
In Sunday’s contest, Brozoski recorded five points, an assist and two steals — not far off from her season averages of 6.4 points, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals — proving the mask doesn’t affect her play too much. No matter how long she has to wear the mask, Brozoski will continue her role as a budding backup freshman point guard.
And if the past is proof, it shouldn’t slow her down.