Kat Norman battled back from an ACL tear once.
A year later, she’s trying to do it again.
The Columbus North senior is less than three weeks away from a potential return to basketball games. She’s been practicing with the Bull Dogs for about a month.
“I like being able to play with my teammates again and not have to sit on the sidelines,” Norman said. “I wish I could get back and play in games, but I want to make sure that I’m ready, and I can play the best I can when I get back.”
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Norman first tore the ACL in her right knee in July 2016. Playing for her Indiana Faith travel team, she was along the baseline, and a teammate threw a low pass from the top of the key. Norman tried to catch the ball, landed awkwardly and the knee popped.
She returned to the court in late December and saw a little action for North the rest of the season, which saw the Bull Dogs win sectional and regional titles.
Norman returned to her travel team in the spring. Then in June, when high school coaches are allowed to work with their teams and play games against other schools, Norman was back to normal.
“When we played in June, Kat was as good as new,” North coach Pat McKee said. “She was playing without fear in June. That player was going to vie to start. I hope the experience of going through it before will allow her to know how hard to push herself so she can be closer to that June level that we saw because that was a good level.”
In July, McKee went to Westfield to watch Norman and Bull Dog teammates Liz Tynan and Kelsey Patberg play in a tournament. The next day, the Indiana Faith, coached by St. Peter’s Lutheran eighth-grade coach Rick Patberg and Roncalli assistant Denise McClanahan, went on to Toledo, Ohio, for another tournament.
In Toldeo, Norman was on help-side defense and the ball was reversed to the girl she was guarding. The opponent tried to drive baseline, and Norman tried to stay in front of her. Norman’s right foot stayed in place, but the knee locked out.
“I didn’t think I tore my ACL because I walked off the court by myself just fine,” Norman said. “It didn’t hurt as much, and there wasn’t a pop like there was the first time.”
Norman was held out of the rest of the tournament as a precaution. She went back to Dr. Donald Shelbourne — who had done the initial surgery — a couple days later to get it checked.
Tests revealed another ACL tear.
“It was devastating,” Norman said. “I was really looking forward to my senior season and being able to play with my best friends. But I just had to work through it and be able to get back as soon as possible.”
Shelbourne cleared Norman to start practicing Nov. 7. She still can’t do full-court work.
Barring any major problems, Norman has been cleared to return to action Jan. 1. North hosts Jennings County on Jan. 2.
“It’s a devastating injury and a lot of work and rehab to get back to the level you want to be at,” McKee said. “You have to understand the courage it takes on her part to go through all that again.”
Norman’s sister Sierra is a sophomore who splits time between the varsity and JV. Kat said she likes having Sierra on the team and that they give each other coaching to become better players.
Kat Norman is considering pursuing a collegiate career at Hanover. If she decides against playing college basketball, she likely would go to Indiana University and study finance or business.
She said she currently is at about 80 percent of where she was before each of the injuries.
“I feel pretty confident in my abilities,” Norman said. “I’m getting better every day and feeling more comfortable. I just want to get back and compete as much as possible and get better every day and help my team out as much as possible.”
What: Columbus North vs. Columbus East girls basketball
When: Thursday (6 p.m. junior varsity and freshman, 7:30 p.m. varsity)
Where: Columbus North High School main gym (JV and varsity) and auxiliary gym (freshman)
Name: Kat Norman
School: Columbus North