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Baranek: Lost year brings two battlers lasting lessons

GeorgiDanos Richards

Georgia Danos, of Richards

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Updated: December 24, 2012 6:54AM



Tales from a pair of Thanksgiving tables that are a lot happier this year than last.

Two years ago, as a freshman, Molly Franson of Andrew provided the most interesting story of the girls basketball season by leading the Thunderbolts varsity in both points and rebounds, despite starting in just two games.

That was most definitely going to change (the starting status, I mean) during her sophomore season. But at a summer tournament her knee — and her life — took a painful twist.

“I twisted it funny when a girl fell on top of me,” Franson said. “It just kind of, not gave out, but it took me down. My kneecap kind of subluxed (partially dislocated) from the impact.”

Although the pain went away, Franson went in for an examination. It was discovered that she hadn’t suffered any kind of a knee blowout, but instead that she had a genetic abnormality in which the track that kept her left knee in place was missing.

Franson could have kept playing, but there was always the risk that the knee could sublux again, with much more serious results. The only way to fix the condition was to have surgery where doctors would carve a track for her kneecap into her shin. To do so would cost her the entire sophomore season.

Surgery took place on Oct. 20. Afterward, Franson was bed-ridden for two weeks. She couldn’t walk for another six Finally, she was able to shed the crutches and begin therapy.

“At the beginning it was horrible just to sit there and do nothing all day,” she said. “Toward the end I got so stir crazy.”

Four months after surgery, Franson was allowed to shoot free throws, but still couldn’t run and get the ball. Her dad (Karl) was a faithful shagger in the gym and at the hoop at home. Meanwhile, she attacked therapy like it was a rebound.

“I think I did more exercises to help my knee to try to heal it faster than I shot free throws,” she said. “I biked a lot. It was really all about just getting my strength back.”

Franson credited therapist Steve Roth of Accelerated Physical Therapy in Orland Park for making the biggest difference in her road back to basketball.

“He was just incredible,” she said. “I mean, it’s a physical pain, but it’s kind of an emotional pain, too. He understood and helped me through it. He pushed me, and made it that much more worth it to be there.”

Franson was able to get back on the court for summer camp. She’s been a top producer for the Thunderbolts during their 3-0 start, scoring 25 points in their opener.

“Every game I want to get out there and play as hard as I can,” Franson said. “This was such an eye-opener. You just can’t take anything for granted.”

Richards senior Georgia Danos can relate. Her life-changing event took place last year in the Bulldogs’ season opener. She scored eight points during the first four minutes before disaster struck.

“I went up for a layup and got bumped in mid-air,” she said. “I landed really funny on my right leg. It felt kind of weird, but I just played it off like, ‘Oh, it’ll go away.’”

But it didn’t. Danos made her free throw and went back on defense. Then, reacting to a steal by one of her teammates, she made a quick cut, and went down with a scream.

“It was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced before in my life,” she said.

The next day an MRI confirmed that she had torn her ACL. Her junior season was over.

“I was devastated,” she said. “Oh, man, it was hard. I just kept telling myself that everything happens for a reason, and even if I don’t know why it happened now, I’ll find out in the future.”

Her surgery took place Dec. 9, and it wouldn’t be until June that she returned competitively to the court. But that didn’t keep Danos away from her teammates at Richards. She made all but a couple of games, and attended practice faithfully.

“I’d just sit on the ground and dribble,” she said. “Then I’d lay on the ground and shoot, just little things like that. I wanted to show my teammates that I didn’t give up on them.”

The caring, she said, was returned, especially by senior Brianna LeBeau.

“She used to come to my house a lot,” Danos said. “I couldn’t do anything, so she would come by a lot and we’d watch a movie, and sit and talk. She told me just to keep my head up, and that she knew I’d come back strong. She helped me so much, and my brothers, too, especially Dean. He knew how much it hurt me because we both love the game so much.”

Danos was able to return in time for the active part of club season. In July, she received a scholarship offer from Eastern Illinois University. Like Franson, she has started the 2012-13 high school season with a flourish, leading Richards to a 2-1 record in the Bobby Bolton Classic tournament.

Also like Franson, she has a perspective that I think should serve as our closing thought today.

“Ohhhh, man. Don’t take anything for granted. Enjoy every moment you have with your health. There are people out there who are really going through hard times. Just be thankful and appreciate what God gives you every day.”



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