Hanna Wheeler was scrimmaging at a showcase when she made a pass fake and felt a pop in her knee. She immediately thought about her ACL and was told it was hyperextended and played on it for about a month.
At another scrimmage early in the season at school, her knee totally gave out.
Her parents were out of town at the time, so after yet another week of waiting, an MRI confirmed it was a torn ACL.
“At first I was really upset, but I couldn’t go back and change what happened, I just had to work through it,” she said. “I wasn’t scared of the surgery, was more afraid of the outcome. I knew I was going to have to get through it with the help of my teammates.”
Her injury didn’t stop her from being a full participant in the Cedar Park season.
Wheeler was at every practice and team meeting and was cheering the team on from the bench during every game.
“She was like an assistant coach last year,” Cedar Park head coach Donny Ott said. “Transitioning to this year, she had such a good feel for what we were doing, it was just a matter of transitioning. She’s playing at the level she is now because of her studies and willingness to be at everything.”
Ott said he’s seen other situations where an injured athlete would use the athletic period to take care of appointments, but Wheeler was an overcommitted worker that wanted to be with her teammates.
Wheeler said she watched a lot of film last year to help her learn the new system Ott was implementing. She said it can be kind of awkward to watch it when she wasn’t actually running the drills, but it gave her a chance to see the little things.
She was cleared to return to the court on Jan. 5 and returned to the court for a few minutes in a game on Jan. 8.
“I got out there and I looked over and all my parents and teammates were standing and I started tearing up,” Wheeler said. “I didn’t think it could feel any better than being able to do what I wanted to do, but seeing all the people that were supporting me, it was unbelievable.”
Her biggest message about recovering from an injury was to trust the work you put in during the recovery process.
“There’s a confidence with Hanna when she leads the team,” Ott said. “She’s confident in what she’s saying and she knows what we’re trying to do as coaches. It’s a good combination to have that leadership quality.
Now a junior, Wheeler is one of the top offensive threats on a team that returns many players that helped the Lady Timberwolves win the district title and made it to the regional semifinals a season ago.
Wheeler is getting some looks from colleges to continue her basketball career at the next level, but she said she got into the sport because she wanted to be like her older sister and she’s been playing with many other members of the Lady Timberwolves’ roster since elementary school.
“Being able to play with my teammates is what makes it so fun,” she said. “As a team, we just want to go far and get a shot at state. Now I get to be a part of the team on the court and I want to make it a really great year.”