Patil Yaacoubian perseveres to return to the game she loves

For Patil Yaacoubian, staying positive is key. She knows first-hand what it feels like to have something you cherish stripped away. Despite all the obstacles Yaacoubian has endured, she continues to work toward a future in basketball, whether by representing Armenia as a player or giving back to her community in Southern California as a coach. 

Yaacoubian graduated from Village Christian School in 2020, where she played 97 games and scored 1,422 points. Her time in high school garnered attention from Armenian basketball, and she eventually accepted a call-up to represent her nation and win gold at the 2019 FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship in Andorra. “After the championship game ended, I looked up and I saw my parents run down to the court. It was great. I don’t even know how to describe that moment,” Yaacoubian told the Weekly.

Her high school graduation coincided with one of the most significant events in recent history – the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, Yaacoubian had multiple offers to continue her basketball career in college. Ultimately, the shooting guard accepted an offer to play for Arizona Christian University for her freshman year.

Not even a month after arriving in Glendale, Arizona, Yaacoubian broke her ankle in practice. This injury made her ineligible to play the rest of her freshman college season. The mixture of dealing with her first season-ending injury and being away from loved ones weighed heavily on Yaacoubian. “I kind of realized that being far away from home was not the best…so I decided to come back home,” Yaacoubian said. 

The summer following her freshman season, Yaacoubian accepted a call-up from the U20 Armenian national team. She took pride in representing her country. “It meant the world to me. I had my country on my chest, playing for my country. Mind you, the year before that we won the gold, so I was ready to go. This is everything a female athlete can ask for, to play for their country.”

Training for the women’s team was a challenge. “We would practice twice a day. It was a lot, obviously, after an injury,” Yaacoubian said. “We would scrimmage against guys’ teams…there weren’t any other women’s teams to practice against and kind of get ready for the games, especially right out of COVID.”

Then, a routine scrimmage, something Yaacoubian had taken part in hundreds of times before, resulted in a career-altering injury. Her right ankle had only started to feel like its usual self, when she suffered a knee injury in practice. 

“One of the scrimmages, I was playing defense, and one of the guys went straight into my knee. So I went down and couldn’t get back up. I self-diagnosed myself with a bone bruise. So I was out for a few days and ended up playing in the tournament,” Yaacoubian said.

Patil Yaacoubian on the court

Pain and discomfort would follow her throughout the U20 tournament, where Yaacoubian averaged a team-high 18.3 points per game and a team-high 4.3 assists per game. 

“I came back home in a lot of pain. By that time I had committed to going to Cal Lutheran University for my sophomore year,” Yaacoubian said. A new season with a new team was ahead for Yaacoubian. In a way, this was her path to getting back to the grind of basketball. Plus, she would be a lot closer to her family.

Just five games into her sophomore season, Yaacoubian opted out.

“My knee was still bothering me a lot. I had no idea what was going on. I had seen multiple doctors, got MRI’s, x-rays, whatever it was. Everyone was like you’re fine, you’re young,” Yaacoubian admitted. “I was still practicing, but there were little things I was picking up on. I couldn’t push off my leg. I couldn’t run as fast as I wanted to. My mind was going, but my body wasn’t.”

At the start of 2022, Yaacoubian’s knee swelled up without any relief. Multiple doctors visits revealed that her knee was clean, but one particular doctor suggested there could be a meniscus tear. She underwent her first surgery, lasting just two hours. The speed of the procedure seemed like positive news for Yaacoubian, until the doctor revealed its findings. 

Surgery revealed that Yaacoubian’s ACL was non-functional, along with a partially torn meniscus. The doctor immediately suggested they schedule an ACL reconstruction surgery and meniscus repair simultaneously.

Yaacoubian endured surgery for her ACL and meniscus in June 2022. “It was probably the worst experience of my life. It was absolutely terrible. Ever since I was little, I was always the kid that six or seven days out of the week, I was in the gym. I was always at training. I was always at workouts…it went from doing basketball 24/7 to doing absolutely nothing. Bed bound.”

The surgery put a complete halt on life. Yaacoubian admits she lost motivation after falling out of her years-long schedule of constant involvement in basketball. “It was really hard. This was by far not what I had expected in my collegiate career. Like, I was ready to go play. I was training for it all my life.”

The lack of motivation also had an impact on her road to recovery. “I slacked on PT (physical therapy) and developed so much scar tissue in my knee that I had no range of motion. I could barely move it to walk,” she said. 

At the end of July 2022, Yaacoubian’s surgeon suggested another surgery to clear away scar tissue. This would mark a third surgery within four months. “I lost all my weight. I lost all my muscle in my body. I was really at my lowest,” she recalled.

The long road to recovery was back. Injury molded Yaacoubian’s basketball experience for two years, and it was ongoing. She had to sit out her junior year of college to go through extensive physical therapy. “Usually they say it’s supposed to be seven to eight months, and you’d be back on the court. By month eight for me, I finally got cleared.”

Despite being on the mend, Yaacoubian wasn’t only dealing with physical injuries. The long period of time that had passed without gearing up to play left growing doubt in her mind.

“I was all by myself and watching my teammates play. It was a little bit difficult. This is like year three that I hadn’t really played. Like, what’s going to happen next? Do I still have it in me? All these questions were going around in my head, like, am I still made for this? Was this not the right route to go through? Is this what I should be doing, or should I just get my degree and get this over with?” Yaacoubian explained. “A lot of people telling me I wouldn’t be the same, saying that I will never be 100-percent again.”

The constant worry from her surroundings made Yaacoubian question herself. But she wouldn’t let doubt define her life. All she wanted was a fair shot — a shot assisted by her family.

“The one thing that helped me the most was my family, being around my family. They understood it like no other. Every single night for the first month and a half, I had either my mom or my dad sleeping by me. Having that support and knowing that they have my back was everything to me,” Yaacoubian said.

Patil Yaacoubian playing the game she loves

Physical therapy finally wrapped up, clearing Yaacoubian to return to play in July 2023. She also decided she needed to be closer to home and left Cal Lutheran to attend Glendale Community College. There, she reunited with a coach who had been recruiting her since her junior year of college. After explaining her tumultuous past three years and expressing her readiness to get to work, the coach obliged. Yaacoubian was back.

A 21-year-old Yaacoubian joined a squad of 18-19 year old players. She noticed how much youth and inexperience surrounded her. “We would be lucky if we made it to the first round of the playoffs,” Yaacoubian admitted. However, her doubt gradually wore off. “We were playing game after game after game, and we were winning. We were doing pretty good.”

The season wrapped up with a 30-3 record. Yaacoubian helped GCC advance to the 3C2A championship game, just falling short of the title. After three years, multiple surgeries and months of physical therapy, this was a win for Yaacoubian. “The fact that we even made it there, I was just in absolute shock. I had one of the best seasons in my career.”

With a state championship appearance under her belt, Yaacoubian also won Sixth Player of the Year in her conference — an award given to the best player to come off the bench. It was the first time in her life that she came off the bench, but it was a role she embraced. Yaacoubian admits she did push back against her coaches initially, but she grew to love her role. “I’ve definitely grown from it and have become so much better as a person and as a player, and soon-to-be coach.”

Yaacoubian wants to continue her basketball journey but is yet to decide which path to take. She will attend CSUN starting in fall 2024 and see if she can make it on the team. Because of her previous injuries, Yaacoubian still has two years of eligibility. 

However, she has also found joy in coaching. Yaacoubian has been given a verbal commitment that she can help coach the girls’ middle school basketball team at Village Christian School if she doesn’t pursue a playing career.

Whether she dedicates her time to coaching the next generation or joins the senior Armenian women’s basketball team, Yaacoubian wants to continue her involvement in basketball. Given the battles she’s overcome, there’s a fair shot her story is far from complete.

Jason Takhtadjian

Jason Takhtadjian

Jason Takhtadjian is a reporter, producer and weekend anchor at KCAU-TV in Sioux City, Iowa. Takhtadjian began college pursuing Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Aerospace until deciding to pursue a sports broadcast career after one semester at the University of Nevada - Las Vegas. While at UNLV, Takhtadjian worked on his own weekly radio show/podcast covering soccer and basketball, produced his own sports debate show, was part of the university’s weekly sports show “The Rebel Report” and was the play-by-play commentator for UNLV men’s and women’s soccer and basketball, to name a few. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Jason was graduating college and had to pivot to the world of general news to land a job. Three years after accepting a job in the middle of the United States with no Armenian community, Takhtadjian accepted a reporter position at KSEE in Fresno, California. The 26-year-old also worked as a contributor for Armenian Sports News, helping grow the page by thousands of followers in less than a year of work.


  1. Bravo Patil, she has so much perseverance and grit! I hope her health continues to improve and we can all watch her play for Armenia again! GCC is lucky to have her and CSUN!

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