PREP NOTEBOOK: Kendra Conner’s return takes pressure off TCHS teammates


Tuscaloosa County High School’s Kendra Conner has battled knee problems during her career. (Photo by Erin Nelson)


Kendra Conner plans to finish her senior season in style if her troublesome left knee holds up.

Conner, a senior point guard, was able to rejoin her Tuscaloosa County High School basketball teammates in Tuesday’s game against Central. She might have been a bit rusty, but she managed to score seven points in the 72-52 loss.

Conner joined the TCHS varsity as a freshman. Jacob Haas, the first-year head coach for the Lady Wildcats, said Conner averaged about 18 points per game that season. Conner missed her sophomore season because of a torn ligament in her left knee.

In the second game of her senior year, she suffered a torn meniscus in the same knee. The injury occurred when TCHS was playing in a tournament in Haleyville.

"It felt like a different kind of injury," Conner said. "It wasn’t anything major to me. I’ve had the big surgery before, so I wasn’t really scared about it.

"It didn’t hurt at all when I first tore it, the day of the game. I started to have problems walking up and down the stairs, turning corners and stuff like that."

Conner underwent surgery Dec. 11.

"I wanted to play because I love basketball," she said. "Basketball is my everything. I play basketball all the time, every day. I think about basketball in class. That’s what I do."

Conner said she played through the pain in Tuesday’s game.

"When I’m on the court, I don’t think about it," she said. "I try to block it out. I had a lot of pain, but I want to play basketball more than I hurt, so I try to ignore it.

"Any time I’m hurt and I go out there on the court, it doesn’t matter to me because pain doesn’t bother me when I’m out there. All I think about is the game."

Katie Krout and Shakirra Thomas each scored 17 points for the Lady Wildcats in Tuesday’s game, and Conner said she wants to contribute as a scorer and as a leader.

"I haven’t been healthy for the past two seasons," she said. "I want to end this season being healthy and being a great player. I do it all. I shoot. I try to pep my teammates up when they make mistakes. I try to be a leader and everything like that because a lot of people look to me when I’m on the court. I want them to believe they can do things, too, just like I do it. I want them to have faith in themselves."

Haas has coached the Lady Wildcats to an 11-6 record heading into Friday’s home game against Hillcrest. He said he welcomes Conner’s return because of her experience and her skills.

"I’m extremely glad," Haas said.

"She gives us another ball-handler, which we need really bad. Her leadership skills help us out. She really gets people in the right place. It’s going to help us out a lot."

Haas admitted that Conner "struggled a little bit" because of the injury.

"She is a great basketball player," Haas said. "She’s been around the game her whole life. I would probably call her the most experienced player as a senior.

"It’s going to help us a whole lot. Now we can handle pressure a lot better. We can get the ball into our offense a lot easier, and it’s just her leadership on the court. She’s in pretty good shape, but she has to get into basketball condition and get used to the speed again. When you sit for a while and then you get against a team that’s kind of all over the place, it’s kind of hard to settle back down and play your game.

"She needs to trust her knee and trust her game and we’ll be fine. I told her at halftime (in Tuesday’s game) I wanted her to shoot the ball a lot more and not turn it down if she has a good opportunity."

Dare returns for ACA

During a recent game against Holt, American Christian Academy guard Parker Dare stole the ball in the frontcourt and sped all the way in for an uncontested layup.

Dare, whose football season was cut short because of a serious injury, said he considers it a "miracle" to be playing basketball for the Patriots.

Dare was playing football Sept. 28 in a game against Fultondale. He tried to make a tackle but suffered three broken ribs and a lacerated kidney. He was treated at a Northport hospital before being flown by helicopter to UAB Hospital in Birmingham. He spent several days in severe pain, but he didn’t have to undergo surgery.

If the ACA football team had qualified for the AHSAA playoffs, he would have been able to play in a first-round game. Dare was a defensive back, wide receiver and kick returner for the football team. Now he’s helping the basketball team.

"I’m glad just to be playing sports," Dare said. "I went to the doctor, and they said everything’s looking 100 percent. The scar tissue is all healing up.

"It’s still called a miracle. That’s what I believe. It’s just a miracle to be back out here playing this early."

ACA coach Greg Crowe said Dare received a "total release" from his doctors to continue his athletic career.

"He’s worked hard," Crowe said.

"He’s a good kid. To have such a serious injury, for him to be able to come in and play basketball we’re just tickled to death that he’s able to do that."

 

Reach Andrew Carroll at andrew.carroll@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0223.