After tearing the meniscus in her right knee in the regional final of this past girls basketball season, Ashlyn Huffman knew it would be tough having to watch her Columbus North teammates in the semistate and state finals.
Just how difficult that would become turned out to be an even greater burden for the junior point guard.
“I don’t think I realized how hard it was going to be,” Huffman said. “At first, everyone was like, ‘It’s going to be tough,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, I know, I know.’ But then when I was sitting there watching it, it was extremely tough.”
The Bull Dogs, playing without their floor general, beat Roncalli in the semistate. But then they fell in the Class 4A state title game to a Penn team that they had beaten earlier in the season.
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Now, less than four months after her injury, Huffman is back on the court. She, along with teammates Maliah Howard-Bass and Imani Guy, will play for the Indiana Junior All-Stars against the Indiana Senior All-Stars on Tuesday at Bloomington South in the opener of a girls-boys doubleheader.
“I think it will be a lot of fun,” Huffman said. “It will be tough. There are some good Senior All-Stars out there.”
Howard-Bass, a member of the Juniors’ Core Six, also will play against the seniors Thursday at Lebanon. The Senior All-Stars play Kentucky on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Sunday in Bellarmine College in Louisville.
Huffman and Guy are members of the Juniors’ South Six.
“I was very surprised,” Huffman said. “I actually had a friend text me before I even found out, ‘Congrats on Junior All-Stars,’ and I was like, ‘What?’ I’m very blessed.”
That was especially the case, considering Huffman’s selection came just two-and-a-half weeks after her injury.
Late in the first half of the Feb. 13 regional final against Evansville Central in North’s Memorial Gym, she drove to the basket, planted and twisted. Then, she heard a crack or pop.
“It kind of hurt, but not really,” Huffman said. “I didn’t think much of it, and then it happened again on defense.”
So she told assistant coach Ron Patberg that something wasn’t right. He urged Huffman to come out of the game, but she thought she could still play.
Then, it happened a third time. So she told trainer Robyn Coffer, and Coffer put a sleeve over the knee.
“Then I went back in the game, and I literally just cut, and I went down,” Huffman said. “They think that I tore it the first time, and that each time that I felt that crack or pop, I slightly tore it more.”
Huffman underwent surgery at Methodist Sports Medicine in Indianapolis and rehabbed there for the next month. She then continued her rehab at home with her mother Angela, who is a physical therapist.
May 18, the day she was released for basketball activity, Huffman played in an open gym at North. The next weekend, she played four games with her travel team, and last week, she participated in skills work with the rest of the returning Bull Dog players.
“I thought in the skills work the last two days, you would have not really known she was injured,” North coach Pat McKee said on Thursday. “She was fine. She didn’t show any indication of any soreness or real significant issues.”
Huffman had torn the ACL in that same right knee the summer before her sophomore year, when she played at Franklin Central. She still has to ice the knee and make sure the swelling is down from the most recent surgery.
Ultimately, Huffman is glad to be back playing the sport she loves.
“Obviously, basketball is a big part of my life, but you don’t realize that until — I went through this with my ACL, too — when you’re sitting out for four months, and I was sitting out two months for this. It’s really tough,” Huffman said. “But when you’re finally back, it’s such a relief. It’s nice because it gives you that new love for the game. You’ve been sitting out for so long, and then you’re like, ‘Ah, I can finally play again.’”
Indiana All-Stars and Junior All-Stars schedule
Tuesday: Junior-Senior exhibition at Bloomington South, 6 p.m. (girls) and 8 p.m. (boys), admission $6 at the door only
Thursday: Junior-Senior exhibition at Lebanon, 6 p.m. (girls) and 8 p.m. (boys), admission $6 at the door only
Saturday: Indiana-Kentucky game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 5 p.m. (girls) and 7:30 p.m. (boys), various prices of seating available at ticketmaster.com and at the door
Sunday: Indiana-Kentucky game at Bellarmine College (Louisville), 1 p.m. (girls) and 3:30 p.m. (boys), admission $12 with tickets available at bluegrasssports.org and at the door