October 19, 2022 

Yale star Camilla Emsbo to miss 2022-23 season with torn ACL

Ivy career ends for Bulldogs star

On Tuesday, Yale women’s basketball announced that arguably its worst-case scenario had materialized: Senior center Camilla Emsbo, a would-be favorite for Ivy League Player of the Year, will miss the entire 2022-23 season due to injury. Yale’s strategic communications department later confirmed to The Next that Emsbo had suffered a torn ACL.

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Emsbo, a unanimous First-Team All-Ivy League selection in 2021-22, averaged a team-high 14.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game last season as the Bulldogs finished third in the Ancient Eight with a 9-5 record. She ranked seventh in the conference in scoring, second in rebounding, first in blocks and first in field goal percentage (51.4%). Her statistics in each of those categories, along with her total win shares (6.3) and defensive win shares (3.4), also ranked in at least the 92nd percentile nationally.

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The 6’5 Emsbo was also a Second-Team All-Ivy League selection as a sophomore in 2019-20 and burst onto the scene as a freshman, starting every game and winning Ivy League Rookie of the Week seven times.* In three seasons at Yale, she recorded 1,092 points (18th in program history), 715 rebounds (seventh) and 172 blocks (second). Due to Ivy League rules prohibiting graduate students from competing in the conference, her Yale career is now over, and the Bulldogs — picked third in the preseason poll released on Monday — suddenly have a lot more question marks.

“We were all just heartbroken for Camilla because she is such a big part of our team and we know how much she cares about the game,” junior point guard Jenna Clark told reporters at Ivy League media day on Tuesday. “So to lose her senior year at Yale, it’s really tough. Of course, it changes the game. She’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with in my life.”

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First-year Yale head coach Dalila Eshe — who previously coached Emsbo’s twin sister Kira at Princeton — said in a statement that her team is “devastated” about the injury but plans to use Emsbo as “an extension of our coaching staff.” In particular, Emsbo will mentor her replacements: 6’2 junior Brenna McDonald, 6’2 junior Haley Sabol and 6’3 sophomore Grace Thybulle.

Those three players combined to play just 211 minutes last season while Emsbo played 858, the second-most on the team behind Clark. All three of them will likely need to step up in order to fill the void that Emsbo’s absence, and the graduation of fellow frontcourt starter Alex Cade, creates. Clark said she called the Bulldogs’ post players the day the injury happened and told them, “Hey, this is terrible, but you’re going to be able to fill this [role] and you have to work hard every day.”

“It’s definitely a mindset switch,” Clark told reporters. “Maybe they’re thinking, ‘Eh, I’m not really going to play that much this year anyway, because I have probably the Ivy League Player the Year ahead of me, but now that whole thing kind of changes and it’s like, ‘Okay, I have this opportunity. I need to go grab it.’”

Eshe told reporters at media day that she isn’t sure who will claim Emsbo’s starting spot and that it would take “a collective effort” to replace Emsbo’s production — particularly her rebounding.

“We actually had a discussion about that the other day in practice,” Eshe said. “I think in years past, the default has been, ‘Okay … Camilla will get [the rebound].’ So the first portion of that is actually getting yourself into the mindset of, I have to actually go rebound. … We’ve been working on that every day.”

Before Emsbo’s injury, Yale was slated to return players who grabbed 74.1% of its total rebounds and 61.9% of its offensive rebounds last season. Accounting for the injury, those percentages fall to 45.9% and 30.7%, respectively. Those drop-offs are evident in nearly every statistical category:

Percentage Returning from 2021-22 before Emsbo’s InjuryPercentage Returning from 2021-22 after Emsbo’s Injury
Games Started79.3%60.0%
Minutes Played80.6%64.9%
Field Goals Made83.3%57.9%
Free Throws Made81.5%53.6%
Offensive Rebounds61.9%30.7%
Defensive Rebounds79.1%51.9%
Total Rebounds74.1%45.9%
Data from Her Hoop Stats; calculations by Jenn Hatfield.

The offense would have likely flowed through Emsbo again this season, with players such as Clark and junior guard Klara Astrom spacing the floor, and Emsbo would have set the tone defensively as a shot-blocker who can also switch and guard perimeter players. Eshe, a former post player herself, even said on Tuesday that Emsbo’s presence was “one of the more impactful things” in her decision to leave Princeton for Yale. But one injury flipped all of that. The frontcourt is now a huge question mark, and the Bulldogs will look to Clark and Astrom to lead the team from the perimeter.

Clark and Astrom both acknowledged that the timing of Emsbo’s injury, coming well before the season rather than during it, at least makes the adjustments a little easier. “First day of practice, we came in and everybody knew what this year is going to look like” without Emsbo, Astrom said. “… I think everyone locked in.”

Meanwhile, Emsbo entered the transfer portal last month for the 2023-24 season, as she will have one season of eligibility to use outside the Ivy League. That provided a hint that something was amiss in New Haven. But when the news of Emsbo’s injury came on Tuesday, it still reverberated like an earthquake, as the career of one of the Ivy League’s most impactful players officially ended and the Bulldogs continue to figure out how to rebuild.

* Emsbo withdrew from Yale for the 2020-21 year to preserve her Ivy League eligibility, making her a sophomore in 2019-20 but only a junior in 2021-22. She spent her gap year practicing with a Danish club team and playing for the Danish national team.

Written by Jenn Hatfield

Jenn Hatfield has been a contributor to The Next since December 2018 and is currently the site's managing editor, Washington Mystics beat reporter and Ivy League beat reporter. Her work has also appeared at FiveThirtyEight, Her Hoop Stats, FanSided, Power Plays and Princeton Alumni Weekly.

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