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When life throws potential fouls at Aimee Carroll, she deftly rebounds them on and off the basketball court.
Following her sophomore year in 2002, Carroll, a Central Kitsap student, realized that being a junior on a senior-dominated basketball team may put her at a disadvantage when it came to playing time the following season. So she joined a local summer league to polish her skills.
But her plans came to a premature halt following the first game of the summer. While sprinting down the court, Carroll said she dislocated her left kneecap, which forced her to sit out the rest of the season.
A later discovery proved far more discouraging, though.
They thought it was just my kneecap that was dislocated, she said. I didnt get diagnosed (with a torn anterior cruciate ligament) until early September.
While CK advanced to the state tournament for the first time in a decade last year, Carroll rehabilitated with aspirations of returning as a senior.
It was hard, said Carroll, referring to last season when she served as the teams manager. I worked my butt off to come back and its great to be here.
In an offseason where no one knew what to expect from a Cougars team that graduated much of its veteran leadership the previous spring, Carroll the lone senior on the team may have been their most valuable addition.
Its not about me bringing 20 points and 20 rebounds a game, she said.
Its about leadership.
She was really welcoming to a lot of the sophomores when we werent sure, said CK sophomore Megan Hoisington. Ive always looked up to her. If I have a question, I can always talk with her.
Carroll was appointed team captain, but the honor was an unfamiliar role for the youngest of three sisters Alicia, 22, and Allison, 20, walked the path of milestones several years ahead of her.
Ive always been the youngest, Carroll said. Its different, but I like being a leader and having people look up to you.
The elder Carroll sisters also participated in sports at CK, but neither was as active as their youngest sibling. Carroll also is a middle hitter on the volleyball team during the fall and throws the discus and participates in the triple-jump in spring.
Jumping and diving for balls and often battling against taller opponents in the post provides a challenge for 5-foot-9 Carroll, especially considering she hasnt experienced it since her sophomore year.
Im always suffering from pain and injuries, said Carroll, who wears a knee brace during games.
Carroll also maintains a 3.7 grade-point average despite the demands on her time athletic participation requires.
Its a lot of work and its really hard, but I try to manage my time well, she said. Somehow I manage to get it all done.
The next challenge for Carroll will be selecting a college but deflecting to her midwestern roots may not be where her desire lies. Carroll was born in Highland Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, before moving to Silverdale at age four when the Navy transferred her father.
Carroll favors attending Eastern Washington, but also is considering Boise State and Washington State.
I liked the homey atmosphere (at Eastern), she said. I liked how it wasnt too big.
She said she hasnt decided on a major, but is considering exercise physiology or orthopedics.
Carroll also is deciding on whether she will participate in basketball or track and field at the collegiate level.
For now, though, Carrolls primary concern is preparing for what could be her final high school basketball game. The Cougars must defeat the Mount Tahoma Thunderbirds today at Auburn High to qualify for the state tournament. The Thunderbirds easily defeated CK, 80-46, on Feb. 21 to claim the Narrows League title at Bremerton High.
Were a strong team and I think we have a good chance, Carroll said. We have to be mentally ready for it.
Regardless of the outcome, Carroll said she will cherish her memories of CK.
Ill miss a lot of people and definitely coach (Denise) Baxter, she said. Shes always been there for three years. All the teachers are great and everyone is really supportive. Its a great place to be at.