EAST CHICAGO | The first time that Kiana Clark tore her ACL, she had no idea what was going on.
The E.C. Central senior was in the eighth grade, part of a class of top guards heading their way to the Cardinals program, when her knee popped as she leapt for a shot.
By the time she was released after April ACL surgery, she played just a few games in her freshman year with the girls basketball team.
"We really were looking for her to step in and play big minutes on the JV and possibly the varsity, then she tore her ACL late winter, early spring of her eighth-grade year, and didn't quite realize how hard it would be to come back," Cardinals coach Eric Kundich said. "I had all three of the freshmen guards playing freshman and JV and then moved them all up to the varsity and Kiana didn't move up until the middle of January and she just wasn't the same."
By the summer after her sophomore year, Clark was a fixture in the E.C. Central offense, playing the kind of minutes she could have expected.
That's when the second knee went out. During a summer league game, when her right knee popped after tripping over a player, there was no question what had happened the second time.
"It didn't feel as severe as the first time, but I felt it," Clark said. "I could still tell that something was wrong."
Clark tried to play a couple of games, even with the tear in her knee. As the injury hampered her game, her minutes were cut. She and her family opted to have the surgery and not play the remainder of her junior year.
"I didn't see the point in not playing that much when I could get ready for next season," Clark said. "I'm not exactly there yet, but as the weeks go on, I can feel it getting better. I'd say I'm about 75-80 (percent)."
Clark and her Cardinals teammates will play state-ranked Logansport in the 14th Annual Region Roundball Rumble on New Year's Day.
Playing with her left knee in a band and her right in a plastic brace, Clark averages about 3 points per game. She's also a 45 percent shooter from outside the arc.
"Kiana is here every day and is starting to play a little bit more and starting to get her feet underneath her, and starting to get her confidence on the floor," Kundich said. "We've talked to her about being our outside threat when teams play zone against us."