Pleasant View • His sneakers squeak against the hardwood as he plants a foot and cuts to keep pace with the man he is defending, and then again when he bursts into the open court after stealing a pass out of the air.
Each squeak, each move means pressure and strain on a left knee marred by a two-inch stripe of purple scar tissue.
But this is not what Weber High School guard Hayden Schenck is thinking about as he beats a teammate the length of the floor for a layup in this afternoon scrimmage.
“It’s all in your head,” he said. “Once [the doctors] told me it was good, I just trusted them.”
In a few short months, the 6-foot-3 senior has turned a devastating ACL tear into a faded memory. He is healthy and playing better than before. After averaging 19 points a night in a solid junior campaign, Schenck is back to giving defenders fits, scoring 29 points a game so far this season.
“It’s like he never missed a beat,” Weber coach Mark Larsen said.
In the first round of last season’s Class 5A playoffs, the Weber Warriors were trailing Brighton early when Schenck drove to the basket for a layup and took a hit from a defender that left him writhing on the Maverik Center floor.
“There was a pop,” Schenck said. “I could hear it.”
He watched the rest of the first half from the bench. Then he briefly returned with a knee brace on in the third quarter before Larsen stopped play and pulled the wounded Warrior out of the game.
Perhaps those 30 seconds back on the court should have foretold that Schenck would not be kept away from basketball for long.
Surgery repaired the torn ligament, and Schenck worked hard to rehab it. At first he did little things, simply flexing the muscle or lifting his leg 10 times every 30 minutes. After a month, he was walking on a treadmill, trying to rid himself of a limp.
All the while, Schenck said, he was supported by his teammates and coach. Larsen, a former player, has scars on his own knees, and he and Schenck talked often about the recovery process.
The coach sent him news articles about former Purdue University basketball player Robbie Hummel, who tore his ACL twice but bounced back to earn all-conference honors. Larsen showed Schenck videos of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson recovering quickly this year from his own ACL injury.
“If he can do that, I can do that,” Schenck said.
The senior’s recovery over the past eight months has been faster and better than Larsen could have imagined.
“I’m surprised at how fast it was,” the coach said. “But knowing the type of kid he is ... I know the type of determination he has and I know how hard he worked to prove he could get back there on the court.”
Now the college recruiters who stopped calling after the knee injury all have come back. And the senior hopes to help his team win a region title and make a deep run in this season’s playoffs.
The Warriors trailed when Schenck got hurt last February, and the star player cannot help but wonder what might have happened.
Schenck and the Warriors got their rematch against the Bengals on Friday night. This time, Schenck was still standing at the end.
With just 1 second left, he knocked down the game-winning free throws.