As the horn sounded to signal the end of an AAU game prior to her junior year at Gainesville High, Kiana Glasper walked off the court, took off her sneakers and headed home.
She didn’t know it is at the time, but that was the last game of organized basketball she would play.
“It never crossed my mind,” Glasper said. “I thought I’d have a lot of games left.”
After a stellar first two years at Gainesville — ones that had several Division-I programs starting to show interest — the 5-foot-3 point guard entered her junior year with a renewed confidence. She’d spent the summer working on her game and getting in the best shape of her life.
And with Glasper at the point and fellow junior Jaymee Carnes in the post, the Gainesville girls were one of the preseason favorites to play for the Class AAA championship.
It took only one practice to dampen those postseason dreams.
In the fall of 2008, on the first day of practice her junior year, Glasper was participating in a 3-on-2 drill when a teammate bumped into her right knee as she was driving to the hoop. She went down in a heap; writhing in pain, screaming so loud that everyone in the gym turned to see what was wrong.
“I felt a couple of pops in my knee,” Glasper said. “I thought everything was OK. I tried to get up, but I couldn’t.”
That’s because she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.
“I just laid on the floor and my coach kept telling me to calm down,” she said. “At the time, I thought everything would be OK and that I’d be ready to go tomorrow.
“I didn’t know if you feel pops, it’s a bad thing.”
An MRI revealed the torn ligament and a few weeks after the injury, Glasper had surgery to repair the damage. Two weeks later, she began the rehabilitation process and in seven months, she picked up a ball and started to work on dribbling and shooting.
“I had to reteach myself how to walk and how to run and cut,” Glasper said. “I knew I had goals and my friends were praying for me to recover.”
Eight months after the surgery, Glasper was back on the court preparing for her senior season at Gainesville High. And just like that, her career was over.
Participating in a drill that required a lot of cutting from one side to the other, Glasper’s surgically-repaired knee went one way and she went the other. Not only did she tear her ACL again, but this time, she tore her meniscus.
“Even after that, I was trying to play,” she said. “When the doctor told me I blew out my knee, I was shocked, I didn’t believe it.
“I realized that minute that I’d never get that athletic scholarship.”
Determined to not give up, Glasper had another surgery and went through the rehab process a second time. Not knowing what was in store in the future, she sat idly on Gainesville’s bench while her team reached the playoffs yet again in 2010.
“I never thought they’d be better without me,” she said. “I was just used to being in the game and sitting there watching was very hard for me.
“A lot of people were telling me to give up,” she added. “I got angry because I wondered how people can tell me I can’t do something.”
Despite the rehab and desire to get back into playing shape, the letters from colleges stopped coming and Glasper realized a basketball career was not in the cards.
“I was really sad because I didn’t know what to do with myself,” she said. “Everything I ever wanted wasn’t possible anymore, and everyone kept telling me it happened for a reason.”
Luckily for her, she never lost focus in the classroom, and was admitted to the University of Georgia where she will study to be an orthopedic surgeon or a sports therapist.
The injury took her from one calling to another.
“After what I went through, I want to be able to help athletes like I was helped,” she said. “The injury saddened me a lot, but I knew I always had my academics.”
She’ll always have a love of basketball as well, and although she’s contemplating walking on at Georgia or trying out for the practice team, Glasper knows her competitive days are done.
“I feel like I never had the chance to show everybody what I was capable of,” she said.