Jacksonville Christian’s Anna Crook needed a boost, hence her surprised and excited reaction to learning that Calhoun County basketball coaches had voted her as the county’s Class 1A-2A player of the year.
“When Coach (Tommy) Miller told me, I said, ‘Me? I did? That is impossible,’” she said. “I was out for three weeks with a knee surgery, so I’m blessed. Thank the Lord!”
Crook played in 18 games before suffering her injury in a late-season game against Cedar Bluff. She averaged 10.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.9 steals.
The 5-foot-5 senior forward’s contributions helped JCA reach the 1A, Area 10 tournament as the No. 2 seed, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
JCA lost to third-seeded Sacred Heart in the area-tourney opener as Crook watched from the sideline.
“She was the team leader,” Miller said. “She tore her ACL two games before the area tournament, and we didn’t even make it out of the first round.
“That’s how important she was.”
As Crook’s statistics and height suggest, she did it with hustle.
There aren’t many 5-5 forwards, let alone those who average double-figure rebounds and nearly four steals.
That’s why JCA had a hard time with her watching from the bench. The Thunder was used to seeing her somewhere near the ball — all the time.
In fact, there were times when it seemed there were two Anna Crooks on the floor.
“She set the tone for the whole team because she played 100 percent all the time,” Miller said.
“She may shoot the ball on one side, down low, and miss, and she’d get her own rebound on the other side of the goal.
“I don’t know how many times she did that throughout the year, but that’s just the kind of player she was — all out, all the time. The other players drew off of that, and that was a major reason for our success.”
Her season-ending injury occurred on a hustle play.
“We were on defense, and I was reading the pass,” she said. “I went to go get to the ball. My mom said the girl pushed me, but I don’t remember. It happened so fast.
“I just remember that I turned it (her knee) wrong or something. I heard it pop when I fell.”
Crook naturally came out of the game, but we’re talking Anna Crook. It wouldn’t be her final appearance on the playing floor.
Not aware that she had torn the ACL in her left knee, she stretched on the sideline and asked to re-enter the game.
“I walked on it and did some stretches, and I said, ‘I’m good. I can go back in’,” she said. “He (Miller) said, ‘Are you sure?’ I said, ‘I’m positive.’”
So Miller re-inserted Crook into the game, but it didn’t take long for him to get her back out.
“I went to go for a rebound and fell, and I just couldn’t play anymore,” Crook said. “After that one play, I was so upset that I could not go back in and play.”
It’s been about six weeks since the injury, and Crook said her recovery is on schedule. Problem is, she ran out of season.
She not only had to sit out of the area tournament, but she also had to watch her Senior Night game.
“It was hard,” she said.
Miller said college ball does not appear to be on Crook’s horizon. Colleges don’t often sign 5-5 point guards, let alone forwards.
Her on-court hustle got her noticed by other county coaches, however, hence the postseason recognition that came as a pleasant surprise and mild shock.
If any player got the most out of her abilities, Miller said, it was Crook.
“She didn’t really have any of what I would call exceptional God-given skills, physically,” he said. “It was her mental state of mind that got her there. She just drove herself and played so hard.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. Reach him at 256-235-3576. On Twitter: jmedley_star.