Not ready to hang up her sneakers, Rettstatt prepares to play professionally in Europe.
There are two words Bridgette Rettstatt can’t seem to associate with her basketball career: The End.
Twice the 2017 Worthington Christian School graduate thought she was walking off the court for the last time. And yet, months after the Liberty University women’s basketball team’s 71-45 loss to Vanderbilt in the second round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament on March 21 in Nashville, Rettstatt is still marching to the rhythmic thud, thud, thud of a basketball reverberating off a hardwood floor.
Rettstatt, who finished ninth on the Flames’ all-time scoring list with 1,227 points and seventh in career rebounding with 863 boards, is waiting to find out where she will be playing overseas this fall.
The one thing she knows is she’s not done playing basketball.
“The whole thing has been kind of surreal,” Rettstatt said in a telephone interview from Lynchburg, Va. where she has been in training. “I’ve had that career-ending moment twice: once when we lost to Jacksonville State (59-57 in the semifinals of the ASUN tournament) when we didn’t think we were going to make the postseason and then again after (the second-round) loss in the NIT.
“Both times I feel I held it together until I was finally walking off the court. I was probably the saddest about just not being a part of a team anymore and not having that same bond and relationships with the players. It almost didn’t feel real.
“I’ve been playing basketball since I was four years old and those losses seemed to be the end of the road for me. I was like, ‘This can’t actually be happening,’ you know? I can’t be done playing basketball.”
It turns out she was right. A week after the season was over, Rettstatt found herself missing the four-hour practices. One of her coaches said if the forward was interested in continuing to play, he could set her up with an agent to talk about the possibility of playing overseas this fall.
Rettstatt jumped at the chance. She will not know where she is headed until June. Depending on where she is selected, Rettstatt would travel to join her new team in September and compete until mid-April.
“I am very excited,” she said. “Basketball is such a big part of my life and once it ended collegiately, I knew I wanted to keep doing it. I am very excited to travel and to keep playing.”
Rettstatt has made only one trip over the Atlantic when she traveled with the Flames to train in Israel in the summer of 2018. She was aware of an abundance of opportunities to play professionally overseas and had given playing in Europe a passing thought during her career.
“A lot of us on the team talked about it,” she said. “But it wasn’t until your career (collegiately) is starting to end that you really start to ask yourself, ‘Are you done or are you ready to keep on playing?’”
After helping lead the Flames to a 28-5 season last year, Rettstatt realized there was more life left in her sneakers. This season, a fifth-year added because of COVID, she discovered a new Christ-centered culture within the Liberty program. The Flames had never finished below the .500 mark during her time with the team, finishing 24-10 overall in 2017-18, 16-16 in 2018-19, 20-11 in 2019-20, and 19-8 in 2020-21, and placed second in the ASUN league four out of the five years.
However, Rettstatt always felt like something was missing.
“Over my five years, the program hadn’t always had the best culture,” she said. “When I came back this year, I really wanted to leave the program better than I found it. I let God take the lead this season.
“This season wasn’t necessarily about personal success on the court or achieving milestones. If someone were to watch the way we played this year, they would notice this huge culture shift over the way we played the last couple of years before. God put it on my heart to stick around and just kind of be a light and be the teammate my team needed me to be. A lot of the girls stepped up in the same way.”
At Worthington Christian, Rettstatt was a phenomenal athlete no matter what uniform she was wearing. As a soccer player, she scored 23 goals and assisted on 14 more during her senior season. As a high jumper, she made it to the state meet three times and finished second in the state by clearing five-feet, eight inches her senior year.
However, it was basketball where Rettstatt stood out the most. She was the Division III Co-State Player of the Year her junior year and earned first-team honors as a senior. After averaging 23.4 points per game her junior and senior seasons, Rettstatt finished as the Warriors’ all-time leading scorer with 1,716 points. She chose to follow in the footsteps of her older sister, Audrey, who played basketball at Liberty 2013-17.
Rettstatt, a “lifer” at Worthington Christian, believes the school helped prepare her both athletically and academically for the rigors of college life.
“Worthington Christian sets you up to succeed,” said Rettstatt, who earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. “I felt like a lot of the college classes weren’t that much more difficult than the classes I had in high school.
“Athletically, a lot of coaches put in a lot of effort to get me to where I am today. Growing up in a faith-based school and having that carry over onto the court as well as the classroom gives you a different dynamic. It was cool to be a part of that.”