By Jesse Wolfersberger
Heather Blackburn, Grady’s lone senior, has words of wisdom for her younger teammates on life and basketball.
“I tell them not to take anything for granted,” she said. “Because tomorrow it could be gone.”
Blackburn, a 5-foot-6 guard, learned that lesson the hard way. Two minutes into last season’s season-opener, she went down with a knee injury. He missed the rest of the season.
Grady girls coach Alisha Rush said Blackburn was playing defense when the injury occurred.
“She turned to go cut (an opposing player) off, and her foot just stayed put,” Rush said. “At first I thought it might not be that bad, but once I found out, I felt sick to my stomach. It pretty well broke my heart.”
Blackburn tore her ACL, and partially tore her MCL and meniscus in her right knee.
Heading into last season, Rush knew her senior-rich team was capable of big things.
“It was one of those years where it was now or never,” Rush said.
The Lady Bronchos hardly collapsed without Blackburn. They made it to the second round of the state playoffs before losing to eventual Class 1A champion Fort Sumner, but Rush said she can’t help wondering how the team would have done with their top junior.
“It’s unfortunate she got hurt,” Rush said. “She had been one of our better players.”
In December 2004, Blackburn had surgery on her right knee and began rehabbing for a comeback.
“It was tough sometimes,” Blackburn said. “I had to have my little sister help me with the rehab because I couldn’t lift my leg.”
Except for the day of her surgery, she attended every game the Lady Bronchos played last season.
Rush, who had knee problems during her playing days, said she could relate to Blackburn’s struggle.
“I know how hard it is to come back,” Rush said. “So I was really on her about her rehab.”
Blackburn, who was named team captain, was ready for the start of this season, and she’s played well for the Lady Bronchos. Blackburn scored seven as Grady improved to 15-8 and 9-0 in District 4-1A with a 52-31 win against San Jon on Saturday.
Blackburn said she does not feel completely confident with her repaired knee, but the more she plays the less she thinks about it.
Jay Lynn Blackburn, Heather’s father, said he thinks his daughter is back to full strength.
“She plays with reckless abandonment,” he said. “She claims she’s still not completely confident in it, but you wouldn’t know it from watching her.”