FAIRMONT - The journey back to the basketball court after missing an entire year of basketball seemed impossible.
But Fairmont Senior's Anysa Jordan didn't let that stop her.
Jordan was honored by the West Virginia Sports Writers' Association with the 2019 Doug Huff Award, which is given to a senior in a team sport whose qualities as a player are not measured solely by numbers on a scoreboard. She will be honored at the Victory Awards Dinner on May 5 at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.
"Losing that year was pretty tough," Jordan said. "Coming back, I knew I couldn't focus on that year. Everyone was like, 'Oh, you missed last year. Are you going to be OK this year?' And I'm like, 'I can't think about that. I have to think about getting better and helping my team.'"
When Jordan got home from her ACLsurgery in January 2018, a spark of determination struck her. The injury would not beat her.
Her season-long stay on the bench recovering allowed her to observe the game from a fresh perspective. She then realized how she could get her Polar Bears back to Charleston.
"When you sit on the sidelines, you see a whole different aspect of the game,"Jordan said. "That really helped me as a player. So, when I came back this year, I was just telling them things that I noticed from a watching perspective."
Both on and off the court, Jordan tried to light a fire in her teammates. On the court, she built her teammates up, knowing that giving younger players confidence was like planting seeds in a garden.
A season of confidence-building came together when the Polar Bears defeated Wyoming East in the Class AAstate championship. A unified team of girls from grades nine through 12 proved confidence pays off.
Off the court, Jordan encouraged communication between all team members because she saw the lack of communication tear her team apart the previous season.
She realized that what her coach, Corey Hines, was telling the team were things they needed to internalize and improve, including communication and relationships.
"When you're playing, you're like, 'This is what I'm doing, and this is what everyone else is doing,'" Jordan said. "But then a coach is seeing what you're actually doing and what everyone else is actually doing. It's just two different perspectives."
When she was medically cleared to play again, Jordan began enouraging her teammates to listen to the coach.
"Corey always tells us that we need to buy in. He knows basketball, from coaching and playing. We just need to trust him. When players have trust in their coach as well as their teammates, there's nothing that can stop them from winning," Jordan said.
Over the course of the season, the wildfire that was Jordan burned through major milestones. As a senior, she scored 490 points and averaged 18.5 points a game.
"We were happy she was there, she was a force in the games," Hines said. "What she gave us, man, it was great. It was excellent. By the time the playoffs came around, she was stronger. That was the most impressive thing to me."
The injury changed Jordan not only physically, but also mentally.
Jordan played without fear, with almost reckless abandon, like she never thought about her knee. In the back of his mind, Hines was worried, because he knewJordan had every reason to loosen up.
But Jordan told the staff she wanted to play and win a title.
"Coach is always saying you got to practice every practice like it's your last, you got to play every game like it's your last,"Jordan said. "And you're thinking, 'Yeah right, I got tomorrow.' But when you get hurt like that, you're like, 'I don't have tomorrow.'"
Jordan said the injury changed her entire perspective of the game. She longed to get back on the court.
"Now you're thinking, 'This could be my last practice, this could be my last game.' So, you got to give it your all so that, if it is, you put everything out there," Jordan said.