INDIANAPOLIS — Marian University's women's basketball team began its quest to win an NAIA National Championship on Friday. The team is hosting the opening round of the tournament. Indianapolis native Abby Downard has been key for the Knights, and she's having a historic season with her biggest fan watching it all from the stands.
In life, they say to expect the unexpected right? Well, the Marian point guard never expected to tear her ACL her freshman year. She certainly didn't expect a pandemic would end her junior season early. And as a senior, she did not expect she would be playing pregnant.
"I found out, I think it was Dec. 18  was the exact date. So, we were 1.5 months into the season…I played the rest of the season and kinda just had to adjust, and it was what it was, and now, it's a blessing," Abby said.
Her son, Jax, is now 7 months old, and he's basically become a part of the women's team. Abby decided that even with a baby, she wanted to come back for her fifth and final year at Marian.
"I felt like it would be the best thing for him and myself, just give us an extra year to go to school for free, live for free, that was originally the plan...and I just wanted to win a national championship, so that made the decision a little bit easier," Abby said.
You can catch Jax at every practice. He's at every shoot-around and every game. He's always in the stands — sometimes asleep — supporting his mom on the court.
"We're either at home or we're at the gym, so my teammates love him, my coaches love him, everybody's been great," Abby said.
As you can imagine, being a student-athlete and a mom requires a little extra work and if there's anything Abby has learned this year, it's patience and better time management.
"Main thing to me is, leave way earlier. Like, plan to leaved an hour earlier because you're still gonna be late if you don't," Abby said.
But like she said, everybody has been great. So when Abby does need a hand, she has several willing to help.
"Every teammate fights over who gets to hold him next and who gets to do this and that with him," Abby said. "I mean, it can be challenging at times, but I just have so much help and support from teammates and family. It really helps out a lot."
Even with the adjustment of becoming a mom, for Abby, this season has been one for the books. She's averaging career highs in nearly every category, was named first-team all-conference and recently moved into fourth on Marian's all-time scoring list.
And the best part? She gets to share this historic ride with Jax.
"It's so special, I love seeing him up in the stands, and after games, I'm so excited to see him," Abby said. "He means everything to me, and it's really important that he's here."
And who knows: Maybe he'll also get to witness that national championship Abby and the Knights are chasing.