Knee injury dashes Hebron star's dreams of senior glory As junior, Bryant led Vikings to county title

July 22, 1992|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

Kris Bryant had other plans.

She planned to be at another girls basketball camp this week. Since ending a sensational junior season at Mount Hebron High School last winter, Bryant had planned on an exciting senior year. She had envisioned leading Hebron back to a state championship, while choosing among a host of college basketball scholarship offers.

But everything changed a week ago, when Bryant suffered every basketball player's nightmare.

During a pickup game while vacationing in Ocean City last Wednesday, Bryant tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.

There will be no encore season for Bryant, the 6-foot forward who is the reigning Howard County Sun Player of the Year and Sun All-Metro Player of the Year. After undergoing three hours of arthroscopic surgery Monday to repair her damaged knee, Bryant will need a year to rehabilitate the knee, after which she hopes to continue playing in college. She will begin physical therapy next week.

"I'm dealing with it," said Bryant. "At least I'll be able to play again. But it's going to be a long year, especially during basketball season.

"The hardest thing is thinking about when we lost to Hammond [in the regional championship game in March]," she added. "Everyone was saying 'At least you're not a senior. You'll get another chance next year.' "

The timing of Bryant's injury could not have been much worse. She was winding up an excellent summer of basketball, punctuated by a fine performance last month with Maryland's 16-and-under team in the AAU Junior Olympics. Besides anticipating an outstanding senior year at Hebron, Bryant already was listening to serious scholarship offers from about 10 colleges.

"Some school is going to be real smart and take a chance on her, because she is a big-time player," said Mount Hebron coach Dave Greenberg, who lost his third player in three years to an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Point guard Amy Eberhart went down during the 1990 state playoffs. Hebron lost guard Melissa Murdza to the same injury in the middle of last season.

Bryant's injury is an especially big blow to the Vikings. After an undistinguished sophomore season in which she was a part-time player, Bryant enjoyed a breakthrough season as a junior. She averaged 14.6 points, a team-high 10.2 rebounds, and set a school record with 56 percent shooting from the floor while leading the Vikings to their 12th county title in 14 years. Hebron wound up with a 23-2 record.

"She is the first legitimate big kid we've ever had. It's a devastating loss for us," said Greenberg, whose Vikings will have to pursue their seventh state championship without Bryant's imposing presence inside.

"I feel terrible for her. She's a quality individual, a good student, dedicated. But she'll take on this goal the way she's taken on every other one. She'll do whatever she has to do to achieve it, and she'll come out of this with options."

Bryant suffered the injury while driving for a layup. She stepped on another player's foot, felt pain shoot through the knee as she landed, and went down.

"I felt it [the knee] pop," Bryant said. "Someone said they heard it pop. It was the worst pain I've ever felt. It wasn't really that swollen. It felt more like a sprain. I thought I would just miss a couple of camps."

Two days after the mishap, though, a magnetic resonance imaging test revealed the ligament damage.

"I was crushed," said Russ Bryant, Kris' father, who was in Ocean City with Kris when the injury occurred. "It was like somebody hit me upside the head with a two-by-four. But I'm better now. I just want to get her back healthy."

Dr. William Smulyan, who performed the surgery, described Bryant's injury as a "textbook anterior cruciate tear," a common serious injury among basketball players.

"We found exactly what we expected to find, and we did exactly what we expected to do," said Smulyan.

Bryant will wear a brace to support the knee during her rehabilitation, which will include stretching, weight training and eventually jogging. She should be off crutches in three weeks and could be running in six months. Complete rehabilitation takes about a year.

"More females are having this surgery done, because more females are doing more strenuous activities," Smulyan said. "It has to do with the kind of pounding a basketball player takes more so than other sports like football. Even if he or she never suffers a serious injury, the knees suffer wear and tear.

"But Kris is a well-conditioned athlete. Based on yesterday [Monday's surgery], there is nothing hopeless about her situation. I think her chances are very good."

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