Phillip Anglade was having a breakout season last year for Davidson Day, averaging a double-double while leading a Patriot team loaded with talent.
But when Anglade went up for a layup and came down awkwardly, twisting his right leg, everything changed.
After hobbling to the bench, he talked his way back into the game and even played a few minutes before Davidson Day coach Ron Johnson knew something was wrong.
Anglade, who didn't want to come out of the game, learned the next day that he had torn his ACL.
Johnson says losing Anglade was tough for the entire Davidson Day team.
"At the point Phillip got hurt last year, he was our best player," he said. "When he went down, it was very emotional for me and the team. I think we were a different team without him."
The next month was taxing on Anglade physically, mentally and emotionally, as the forward discovered that he wouldn't be able to play for six to nine months and would be forced to miss most of his junior year, which is key for college recruiting.
Instead of playing out the season with his team, Anglade had to undergo surgery last January to repair the damage to his knee, which prevented him from walking for most of the next month.
"It was a really tough time for me when I was laid up in bed, not able to really do anything, I was really down," Anglade said. "But Coach Johnson came by and told me everything was going to be all right, and my family and friends really helped me through the hard times."
As Anglade started taking "baby steps" in rehabilitation last spring, learning how to regain motion, walk and jog, he started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
"I remember in April and May, I started making a lot of progress in rehab, and they told me I was ahead of schedule," Anglade said. "That was the first time I knew I would be back."
Anglade returned to the court July 20 for one of the Patriots' open gym workouts.
"When the doctors cleared me to play, I started crying," Anglade said.
Johnson and his team remember Anglade's return well. The senior looked good, even dunking the ball several times that first day.
While Anglade said he didn't feel completely normal until October, he now feels like he's back and better than ever.
"I feel like I'm on the verge of being an even better player than I was," he said. "My injury made me want to work harder."
Anglade averages 14 points and 12 rebounds per game this year for a Davidson Day team that has started the year 17-2. The Patriots (3-0 in Southern Piedmont Athletic Association play) have risen to the top of their conference standings after a 63-53 win over United Faith Christian. Anglade said the Patriots are now focused on trying to get their first N.C. Independent School Athletic Association state title.
Johnson said Anglade, who is being recruited by Charleston Southern, Queens, UNC Asheville and Vermont, among others, is definitely a scholarship-caliber college basketball player, according to Johnson.
"I think Phillip is going to be a pleasant surprise for whoever gets him," he said. "He is a tireless worker and warrior on the inside."
At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Anglade's biggest obstacle may be his size, but his strength, long arms and 40-inch vertical leap should help counteract some of that. Johnson said Anglade regularly outplays his competition, despite giving up three to four inches in height, noting that if Anglade was a few inches taller, he'd be a high-major Division I target.
Anglade's relentless style of play should also attract recruiters. It's exactly that attitude that has endeared Anglade to his coaches and teammates while overcoming his injury to return to top form.
"I've coached a lot of great players in my coaching career, but Phillip Anglade is right up there with any of them, (he's) as impressive a player and a person as I've ever had," said Johnson. "With all that he has been through in the last year, I respect him even more. Phillip is one of those guys I will still be talking about to my team 10, 15, 20 years from now."