COLUMBIA — Andrea Wikle couldn't avoid the comments.
“Try not to screw up,” one teammate said.
The Tolton girls basketball team won its home opener Tuesday, defeating Prairie Home 58-37.
“Make sure to mention me,” another added.
Wikle just smiles and laughs before beginning an interview. She fits in perfectly with all of the players on her team, with one exception. The sophomore point guard for the Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School girls basketball team has a massive brace over her knee.
The brace is the last remaining evidence of a torn ACL that occurred in late May when Wikle went up for a layup and landed awkwardly.
For most players, an ACL injury can be devastating, requiring multiple months of recovery. Wikle said she hadn't suffered an injury that was more serious than a sprained ankle before she tore her ACL, so the idea of missing the entire season hit her hard.
"I had a friend who had recently torn her ACL, and I thought I was going to be out for the entire season," Wikle said. "I was really down about it, but everyone around me tried to stay positive, and that really helped."
However, when Wikle went to get a second opinion, she was told she wouldn't have to miss the entire season. Wikle had surgery in early June.
"When the second doctor told me I could be back earlier, it sounded great,” Wikle said. “Now I knew I could actually play. It got me motivated."
Wikle’s hard work in rehab started to show.
"Before, we thought she wouldn't be able to play for the whole season," Tolton coach Doug Sain said. "Then we heard maybe January, and now we are hearing the end of November."
For now, Wikle is limited to rehab and cheering her teammates on the sidelines, which is an unfamiliar position.
"The first basketball practice was really hard," Wikle said. "I wanted to be out there with my teammates really bad."
Whenever Wikle does comes back, Sain said her presence will make a huge impact.
"This girl is an absolute animal," Sain said before bursting out laughing. "She is tenacious, but sweet at the same time. What a combination."
Wikle will require a fully healed ACL to be effective with her aggressive style of play. She attributes her playing style to increased confidence.
"I didn’t used to be as aggressive as I am now. I didn’t want the ball in my hands," Wikle said. "Now that I have been playing for a while, I have more confidence. Now I try to motivate other players to have that same confidence."
The Trailblazers will play their first year on the varsity level this season after last year’s inaugural junior varsity season.
"I’ve never played varsity before, so I don’t really know what to expect," Wikle said. "I am excited to see how we match up."
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