HAMMOND | Tierra Turner had torn an ACL once in her career, so when it happened again, she knew immediately that her junior season at Purdue Calumet was over before it had started.
In a preseason women's basketball game against Prairie State in 2011, Turner jumped for a rebound, landed and her leg gave out. In addition to the ACL, she also lost a portion of the meniscus.
She waited until January to have her surgery, expecting a quick four-month return similar to 2009, when she tore an ACL during her senior season at Merrillville.
This time the surgery involved both knees, a pin was removed from the previous injury and it was eight months before she was cleared to play.
"The crazy thing is that I had way more rehab in '09, and I think that's another reason it took so long," Turner said. "With my first tear, I lived in Merrillville and the doctor was in Crown Point, so I could get there easily. This time, my doctor is in Indianapolis, so I couldn't go down to therapy as often.
"I did a lot of it by myself, but there's a difference when someone is standing next to you, because in the gym by myself, there's less motivation. That was a big difference to how quickly I came back."
That's when another hurdle emerged.
Knowing that she'd miss classes and time at Purdue Cal during her surgery and rehabilitation, Turner dropped some of her spring semester class load.
The loss of classes was too many to keep her eligible for basketball, so the red-shirt junior had to take another semester off before she could play basketball.
On Dec. 29, when the Peregrines meet Indiana Northwest, Turner is expected to return to competition.
Before she was lost to the ACL injury last year, Turner was one of the top Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference freshmen in 2009-10, and was a first-team all-conference player as a sophomore when she averaged 19.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.
"When it happened, everyone at the school said to us 'You're not going to be that good, you just lost your best player,'" Peregrines guard Alex Starr said. "We all had worked hard in the offseason, so we had to step in and take over those roles.
"I think maybe we could have gone a little farther in the postseason with her, but we had a great season when no one thought we would."
Turner said she feels the pressure to duplicate her sophomore success on rebuilt knees.
"My stats from my sophomore year were pretty good, so I have a lot on my shoulders," she said. "I think everyone expects me to come back the same and strong.
"I still don't believe I'm 100 percent. I don't know that I'll ever be as good as I was then. I'm good, but I don't know how good until I get back out there."
Turner said coming back in the middle of the season with 14 games remaining is a challenge. Her teammates agree.
The Peregrines hold a 7-4 record, 5-1 in the conference and are on a six-game winning streak.
"We hope when she comes back that she'll slowly be put into games," Starr said. "We know she's good, she'll make an impact, but it's the middle of the season and we don't want to mess up the chemistry that we have."
The extra time to shore up her academic eligibility has also allowed for a better rehab, coach Tom Megyesi said.
"We've been able to bring her along without rushing her," Megyesi said.
"I'm ready to go," Turner said. "When I came back in August, I was nervous at first, because all the other girls were healthy and I had to prove to be able to compete. The coaches seemed to be really excited and impressed, so I guess it was OK."