Jared James could not help but think negative thoughts.
When his twice-reconstructed left knee gave out while playing basketball in preparation for his senior season at Lake-Lehman, James feared he was done.
Right when it happened, I got down on a knee and it hurt a lot knowing that I might have messed up my knee for a third time, James said. I drove home myself, and I was thinking about it all the way home, how I might have to miss my senior season.
The news he received after a visit to the doctor, however, was not so discouraging.
By the standards of his previous history with injuries, the damage was minor and James would only need arthroscopic surgery to fix the latest tear to his medial meniscus.
I was so relieved, he said. The doctor said he could probably get me back in a month to a month and a half. It was a feeling like no other.
The surgical work and the rehabilitation training that James has become accustomed to made that into an accurate prediction.
When Lake-Lehman's basketball team reported for the official start of practice a month later, James was on the court with his teammates. After two more weeks, he was going at full speed.
Or, at least at his current full speed.
James, who already gave up playing soccer because of the two reconstructive knee surgeries that cost him his entire freshman year and the start of his junior basketball season, has evolved into a different player. He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament twice, also damaging his medial and lateral meniscus.
From the past and how I used to play, I think now I'm more worried about my ACL and other parts of my knee, he said. I definitely play a more conservative game.
James thinks his ability to make sharp cuts is diminished and he admits to being a bit less daring when taking the ball to the basket.
But, he has still found plenty of ways to contribute to an improving Lake-Lehman program.
From his spot on the wing, James is the team's fourth-leading scorer and a conduit between the team's perimeter offense and its inside attack.
I'm more worried about getting the assists than I am about scoring the points, James said. It has made me look for my teammates more. I used to be the person who was always looking to score.
We have a bunch of other kids who can score and I feel like it's all right looking for other players more.
Lake-Lehman coach Brian Cutter was amazed just to have James, whom he calls the team leader, back on the court when practice started.
He's the hardest worker on the team, Cutter said.
Adam Dizbon leads the team in scoring and runs the offense from the point guard position. Pete Borum is close behind, providing strength on the inside with help from Cody Paraschak.
James has a knack for making the entry pass when Borum sets up in the low post.
I have played with Pete since he was a freshman and I was a sophomore, James said. We work well together.
He's my favorite big man I've ever played with because he works so hard to get position.
That combination is part of the reason Lake-Lehman went 12-10 last season for its winning record in the last 20 years. After losing their first three games this season, the Black Knights improved to 5-6 and gave James reason to believe better times are ahead.
I've been more confident with this team than any team I've had in the past, James said. I picture us going way above .500 this year.