North Augusta's Sydnei Moss dominated her way to The Augusta Chronicle's All-Area South Carolina Girls Basketball Player honors last season.
Only a sophomore, Moss had 21 double-doubles and averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds per game.
She wasn't the same this year on the way to winning the award again.
Moss was worse. And then she was better than she had ever been.
Moss suffered what she thought was a stress fracture in her lower left leg during a Christmas tournament during that stellar sophomore year.
It progressively got worse, and eventually her doctors told her to shut down all activity to rest the leg.
"I stopped practicing," Moss said. "My shooting turned awful. Air balls. I could barely hit the backboard. My dribbling went south. It was weird. Everyone is supposed to use their summers to get better."
But her leg never got better. When North Augusta started conditioning for the upcoming season, she found it was too much.
"The thing about her year is she didn't do a thing from the middle of March when she was told to slow down," North Augusta coach Faye Norris said. "After all the rehab from mid-March to August 13, she was supposed to be good. When she started jumping, it was evident that she needed surgery."
Moss had surgery in September to repair a broken tibia.
"They had to go through my knee and drill a hole through my shin and put a nail in there to hold it," Moss said. "I was thinking like I wasn't going to be able to play anywhere near my best or at all. I started to doubt myself."
She found the injury had affected her quickness and jumping ability. They were missing when she started the 2006 season.
She never missed a game, but she wasn't as explosive. Moss' scoring average fell four points; her rebounding average also dropped.
"I learned to be more of a team player to try and compensate," Moss said. "I had a bum leg. So I learned to use my teammates more out on the court."
Moss was weak as the season began. She would get pushed down. She would lose her footing as she went up for rebounds.
"She said her leg hurt after our first scrimmage," North Augusta coach Faye Norris said. "She told me it felt like her bones were coming loose again. When the doctors checked her out and said everything was OK, that took the fear out of her heart. By the time we started region play she was back to herself."
Game by game, Moss knocked the rust off, culminating in one of the most brilliant performances she has ever had.
Moss shot 15-for-21 from the floor and 9-for-11 from the foul line to finish with 39 of her team's 62 points in the state quarterfinal win against Aiken.
"She was better than ever," Norris said.
"I can't wait till next year to see what she can do. She didn't even train one lick heading into this year. It's going to be amazing what she can be next year when she works all summer and comes into the season in great basketball shape."
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.