Fallston's Harlee gets back in the game
Jess Harlee raced into girls basketball practice Monday morning at Fallston feeling better than she had in a long time.
After rehabilitating the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, which she tore in August, Harlee was cleared to go full-tilt in practice. For a girl whose full-tilt is about three gears higher than most people can manage, sitting out the first 2 1/2 months of her senior basketball season has been excruciating. She expects to play her first game this week.
“I can’t wait,” she said after rushing from physical therapy to the doctor to practice Monday morning. “I just ran into practice. I was so excited to be going all-out scrimmaging.”
Harlee, a 6-foot forward, had an exceptional All-Metro junior season, leading the Cougars to a 28-0 record and the state Class 3A championship. In the title game, a 65-62 win over highly favored Paint Branch, she had 28 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter, when she went 10-for-12 from the free-throw line and hit two clutch foul shots with 3.3 seconds to go.
She would have been a front-runner for Player of the Year this winter, but she tore the ACL while playing with her Fairfax Stars Amateur Athletic Union team at the Nike Nationals in Georgia.
Three weeks ago, she was able to return to the Cougars’ practices, doing everything except scrimmaging.
She has worked on strengthening her hips and quadriceps to help prevent a recurrence of the injury, but reeling in her aggressive, all-out play probably won’t happen.
“I’m going to try to stay on the floor when I come back, but I can’t make any promises,” said Harlee, who has been known to crash into the stands while chasing a loose ball.
“I feel I just need to go out and play. I have to be aware of it, don’t go for a right-handed layup if someone’s going to undercut me, but I can’t not be aggressive. That’s not who I am.”
In November, Harlee signed a letter of intent to play at West Virginia, so she made sure to check with the Mountaineers’ coaching staff before returning to the court. She said coach Mike Carey gave her his blessing.
“I checked in with Coach Carey and asked him what he thought,” Harlee said. “This year has been extremely hard. I’ve had a lot of stuff going on personally, and I really need to play. I was very happy with his answer. He’s not holding me back, and he fully understands. That makes me even happier that I’m going there.”