Injury-riddled career can’t sideline Williamsport’s Ousley

Williamsport forward Greg Ousley made some big plays off the bench last Saturday, making an emphatic first-quarter block while adding a third-quarter steal and layup.

That was not the most impressive statement Ousley made, though. He made his biggest impact simply by playing.

Ousley suffered torn ACL injuries the past two seasons and has had several other injuries throughout his varsity basketball career. But the senior forward never stopped working and never stopped believing that he would help Williamsport thrive.

And now he is doing so. Ousley is back and becoming an impact player while helping the Millionaires (23-2) reach Wednesday’s Class AAAA state tournament second round against Chester.

“Just knowing that Greg can contribute to the team is big,” Williamsport forward Jahad Thomas said. “He comes in there and makes a couple aggressive plays and he’s a really good role player. He’s the kind of player you want on your team.”

Ousley tore his ACL as a sophomore and then it happened again last year after he had returned and started playing well. It was another devastating blow for a talented player who is part of a decorated senior class that has led Williamsport back to statewide prominence.

Others might have felt sorry for Ousley, but he never felt sorry for himself. Instead he kept working and kept fighting. He returned early this season but was injured again and missed a good portion of the season. It was more adversity but once again Ousley overcame it.

Ousley returned late in the regular season and has become a big piece of Williamsport’s championship puzzle. All three playoff games have been close so having Ousley back has been huge, including in Saturday’s 62-60 first-round state win over Liberty.

“Greg is a big factor and if we can get him playing like he’s used to playing and even better he’s going to be a real asset for us as the playoffs go on,” Williamsport center Chris Kinley said. “Greg is a fighter. Greg fights to the very end and that’s what I love about him.”

Ousley has played with most of the Williamsport seniors since he first started playing basketball. It hurt him bad not to be able to play in last year’s postseason. The injuries were so many that Ousley did not get his first taste of postseason basketball until the district semifinals two weeks ago.

It was quite an eye opener then for Ousley when he took the court Saturday at Montoursville as a sold-out and boisterous crowd thundered from above. He settled in and did his part, though, and his big block highlighted a strong Williamsport start. Two quarters later, his steal at midcourt led to a layup that put Williamsport ahead, 42-36.

“It (steal) felt like all the stress was off my back. I felt like I was part of the team and that made it even better,” Ousley said. “It feels good. I was more excited for this than in a long time. This is my first playoff game since eighth grade because of injuries. I was kind of nervous at first. I wasn’t used to the atmosphere at first, but once I got used to it and I got into the flow of things and got going.”

Ousley has the kind of versatility that Thomas has featured while becoming an all-state player. The senior can bang with the big bodies underneath, but also run the court like a point guard and excel in transition. He played well in a huge regular-season finale win over national power Princeton Day Academy and his solid play has continued into the playoffs.

Some might gloss over Ousley’s name in the boxscore but stats do not tell the story. The hard-working senior helps in all areas and makes the key plays that do not show up on a stat sheet. Williamsport’s bench came on strong late this season and Ousley is a big reason why. That block second-quarter block was part of a 14-2 run and his steal came a minute after Liberty had tied the game.

“Greg works hard and does all the little things,” Thomas said. “Those who know the game know those are the plays that can turn a game around.”

A year ago, Ousley earned a huge ovation when he threw down a dunk in an early-season win. His teammates, coaches and Williamsport fans understood how hard he had worked to get back. A few weeks later more adversity hit, but Ousley did not let it faze him. He is still here and he is playing again.

This fighter refuses to be knocked out.

“I’m very happy for him. It’s been very frustrating for him to have to watch us practice and play games when he wants to contribute in some ways but he was unable to,” Williamsport coach Allen Taylor said. “This year he’s been able to contribute and come up with big rebounds and make key plays. I’m happy he can come out here and play and enjoy the moment.”

Few deserve this moment more.