WEST SUNBURY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Kendall Sankey grabbed the letter board in her room and arranged the message on it meticulously.
She could hardly contain her excitement after an uplifting visit with her surgeon in November.
When she was done, she hung the board on the wall and stared at it with a grin. It read, “Days until first contact: January 1.”
Every day, she’d pick up her phone and say, “Siri, how many days until January 1st?”
The countdown had begun.
It was a long journey for Sankey, a sophomore on the Moniteau basketball team. In early January of 2021, during a game against Forest, Sankey planted her left leg to make a move and her knee buckled. She crumpled to the floor.
Sankey immediately went into denial — she didn’t want to face the grim reality.
When she couldn’t put weight on her left leg, she could no longer pretend.
Her ACL was shredded. So was her meniscus. Sankey was staring at surgery and a long, arduous rehab.
Longer than even she realized.
“It was almost a whole year,” said Moniteau girls basketball coach Dee Arblaster. “She didn’t have surgery until March 8. She didn’t have a choice. She had to go to physical therapy and she got a couple of second opinions.”
Sankey said she wasn’t frustrated by the waiting game. She saw a local surgeon within a week and then consulted with another surgeon shortly after.
Surgery was always the prognosis.
“I had a really good support system,” Sankey said. “My parents were fantastic. Everyone around me was super supportive. They were telling me, ‘Just take your time. You’ll get back eventually.’”
Eventually was almost a calendar year later.
Sankey, though, made it back on the court for the first time since her injury Tuesday at home against Redbank Valley.
When she entered the game, she said the emotions were overwhelming.
“I’m not gonna lie — I was nervous,” Sankey said. “But then I was like, ‘I can’t go into the game scared. I have to play my game.’”
The 5-foot-8 sophomore scored eight points off the bench against Redbank.
Thursday in a big win at Karns City, Sankey was in the starting lineup and scored 10.
She plays with a brace on her left leg that goes from her thigh all the way down to her ankle.
It doesn’t seem to limit Sankey — she said sometimes she forgets it’s even there.
“Honestly, after the first week of wearing the brace, it was like I wasn’t even wearing it,” Sankey said. “It feels great. I love being back.”
Sankey’s recovery didn’t keep her off the golf course this fall for Moniteau, which won the District 9 championship. Sankey averaged 52.7 for nine holes for the Warriors — not bad considering the odd limitation her doctor placed on her.
“My surgeon told me I was allowed to golf — I just wasn’t allowed to use my driver,” Sankey said. “It was interesting. I was happy with my average since I used my 4-iron as my driver.”
Sankey was just happy to be able to compete again.
“It was definitely nice to be able to do something in the fall because I had done nothing since Jan. 30,” Sankey said. “I also do track and, again with my knee, I wasn’t able to participate in last year’s season.”
Sankey, though, understands she still has a long way to go on the basketball court. The rust is thick from nearly a year away from the court, and she remains inexperienced when it comes to varsity basketball.
“I just need to play more games,” Sankey said.
Still, in the two games she has played, Sankey has provided a spark for the surging Warriors, who have won three out of their last four.
“She can play better,” Arblaster said. “I mean, she’s only played two games in a year after a major knee injury, so she has to get some confidence back. She can’t get down on herself when she makes mistakes. But she’s been a big, big help.”
Sankey has given Moniteau two things it lacked heading into the campaign: another threat and some depth.
Sophomore Catherine Kelly leads the Warriors in scoring and another sophomore, Davina Pry, is off to a good start, both scoring and rebounding.
Sankey is another inside presence as well and shares a close bond with her teammates — especially the other sophomores.
“It’s been really exciting to be back, especially since we’ve all been playing together since kindergarten,” she said. “We know our strengths and weaknesses and all that stuff. It’s fun, for sure.
“Being back, the feedback has been amazing,” Sankey said. “But, you know, it’s a team sport, and anything I can do to help us win would be amazing.”