It was something Bryce Dickerson had done dozens – make that hundreds – of times before.
The senior at Phoenix Christian Prep went up for a rebound in a Division IV first-round state-tournament basketball game against Willcox on Feb. 21.
Two minutes into the game . . . when he landed, his world changed.
Both of the major bones in his right leg – the tibia and fibula – snapped.
Thankfully, the fractures were not compound – breaking out of the skin – but there was no doubt that this was very serious.
“There was a lot of pain at first, but then shock kind of set in and I felt numb,’’ Dickerson said. “We were kind of talking and laughing about it while waiting for the ambulance. I guess that’s kind of what you do when you aren’t sure what’s going to happen.’’
Far from home
What made matters worse was that the injury occurred far from home – at Yavapai Community (junior) College in Prescott. Doctors said they could perform the surgical repairs in Prescott or would allow him to have the procedures done closer to home in Phoenix. Dickerson and his family chose the latter.
“I was also kind of freaking out at first, but my coach (Steve Drake), kept telling me to breathe,’’ Dickerson said.
Dickerson, who joined the Phoenix Christian golf team as a junior and became its top player, knew it would be unlikely that he would recover in time (estimated 2-3 months) to play in the state spring tournament (for smaller schools).
When golf coach and school assistant trainer Scott Amend received a text message detailing the news of Dickerson’s injury, he said, “I was devastated. He had worked so hard. It was a tough for him to accept. I could see it his face. But then he started to turn things around with his recovery.’’
Resentment, then appreciation
Dickerson admitted that “there was some resentment (of the whole situation) at first.
“I had asked God why he had let this happen to me. All the parents (of his fellow athletes) and my parents prayed a lot about it, and I think the prayers were answered. You have to be able to adjust to things and maybe one day I will be able to look back and realize what I learned from this.’’
A rod was inserted into the larger bone, the tibia, and it will be there permanently. No surgery was done on the fibula, which is healing on its own.
Dickerson missed only one day of school. He returned to school and had to be in a wheelchair for two weeks, enduring his share of teasing from fellow athletes and students. At first, his leg was so swollen that people thought his pants were pulled over a cast, but there was no cast.
He said he probably could have spent more time away before returning to school, “but I just didn’t want to sit at home.’’
He appreciates all the support he received from his family, father Kurt, mother Angie (Phoenix Christian’s assistant principal) and older sister Jordan, as well as others involved with the school.
Back on the course
Dickerson gradually began to swing a golf club or two. He played six holes on his own a couple of weeks ago and on April 16 played in his first match at the team’s home course, Encanto, shooting a 45 for nine holes. While Dickerson cannot qualify for the state tournament, Amend said he will be able to finish his senior year playing in about four events.
Getting back on the course put a big smile back on Dickerson’s face, not to mention Amend’s.
“It’s good to get back out there. It’s nice to feel nervous about playing in a match,’’ Dickerson said. “I still kind of have to take it easy, though.
“Golf has become very important to me. Before I was on the team, I just played it for something to do once in awhile. My dad suggested I try to play on the team. I did and I fell in love with it.’’
Said Amend: “We’ve had a couple of coaches tell him that it’s good to see him out there.’’
Dickerson he has had “a lot of highs and lows on the golf course. I drive the ball straight, but not as far as I’d like. I have improved at chipping and putting but need work on my approach shots.’’
Amend said the injury has caused Dickerson to slow his game down, and that is for the better.
Dickerson plans to attend Grand Canyon University in Phoenix and major in sports and business management. Amend is trying to convince him to try to earn a spot on the golf team as a walk-on.
Dickerson is one of about eight seniors that Amend will have to replace.
“I wish I could have them around another year, especially Bryce. But they have set a good example for the younger guys to follow,’’ said Amend, who also is a golf instructor for Nike and is a member of the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Sports Advisory Board.
The coach said Dickerson’s comeback has been inspiring to watch.
“What an amazing turnaround. I’ve never seen anything like it,’’ he said.