The student news site of George Rogers Clark High School

Smoke Signals Student Media

The student news site of George Rogers Clark High School

Smoke Signals Student Media

The student news site of George Rogers Clark High School

Smoke Signals Student Media

Injured stars on the road to recovery

For rising athletes basketball is “everything,” but when it gets taken away, what becomes “everything”?

Ciara Byars and the rest of the GRC Hoops team were battling their district rival. Byars was the focal point of the team, averaging 14.1 points and 5.3 rebounds for the season. Late in an exciting second quarter, Byars was met with two Montgomery County defenders as she drove to the basket, resulting in a devastating ACL injury.

A few months later, WinCity was on the road to winning another District championship vs Bourbon County when standout sophomore Malachi Ashford went down mid second
quarter with a knee injury. He had averaged 12.3 points per game and was a key component of WinCity’s success.

GRC Hoops and WinCity were favored to win district and region, and make a splash in the state tournament. GRC fans all around were devastated by the loss of these two centerpiece players. But even through devastation, Byars and Ashford made the best of the situation they were handed and decided to focus on their road to recovery positively.

Malachi Ashford directs the Cardinal offense. (Photo by Smoke Signals)

“The first two months were really rough; every day was just lots of pain,” Byars said.

Ashford added, “When I first got hurt, it was hard knowing I wouldn’t get to play with my team for the rest of the year, and now I’m doing physical therapy and going really hard and
making sure I am doing everything they tell me to do.”

Any injury is challenging, especially as a high school athlete. “The mental part has been the hardest, just pushing through every day with a good attitude,” Byars said. “Some days are good, some days are bad, but just staying positive has been the key.”

Ashford agrees. “I have been making sure I keep my head up and not getting down on myself,” he said.

Ciara and Malachi haven’t been alone; they have had so much support from family and friends. Ciara’s sister, Anovia, also tore her ACL and has been a role model for Ciara. “She is
always telling me it’s going to get better every single day and to look past the injury,” Ciara said.

Coach Graham and Coach Cook have also been a huge support system for the pair. “Coach Cook has talked to me a lot about being a leader even though I’m not playing by being vocal and still talking to my teammates,” Ashford said.

“Ciara has been a trooper handling her season-ending injury,” said Coach Graham. “She has been attacking rehabilitation like she would attack the hoop.”

Ciara Byars celebrates the District Championship with Coach Robbie Graham. (Photo by Smoke Signals)

Byars and Ashford have also found strength in each other. “We were doing PT at the same place, so I saw him on his first day, and we have been trying to make light of the situation,” said Byars. “We got off of crutches on the same day, and have been encouraging each other.”

Even though the duo couldn’t lead their team on the court, they found a new voice on the sideline and got to experience basketball from a different perspective. “I could still impact my teammates and help them even though I was on the bench,” Ashford said.

“I was the mediator between coaches and players, helping the coaches understand why the players are doing some of the things that they do and then also still being a good teammate,” Byars said.

Coach Graham and Coach Cook gained a new perspective and understanding because of Byars’ and Ashford’s new point of view.

“She has such a high basketball IQ that it was like adding another assistant coach on staff,” Coach Graham said. “She knows all of our offensive sets along with all of our defensive
coverages and rotations. Not only did she continue to impact our team with her knowledge of the game, but she also inspired our team with her words and presence.”

Coach Cook said Malachi “showed a lot of character and toughness and made it a point to still be there for his team. He was watching film trying to get information to prepare his teammates.”

Looking past her injury to next season, Byars is hopeful to return at the beginning of her senior season and has some big goals while enjoying her last season as a Cardinal. “The goal is alaways to win state and I think we’ll definitely have the team do it,” she said.

Ashford now has a new understanding for the game and will take what he learned from his injury with him into his junior year. “You have to look at it differently,” he says. “I now know not to take things for granted and always play like it’s my last game.”

Cardinal basketball fans everywhere are anxiously anticipating their return, and while excited for their return, it is important to recognize the sheer will that goes into both the physical and mental recovery of these two outstanding athletes.

“The last 20% of recovering from an injury like this is mental,” Byars said. “So, when I’m 100% ready to go physically and mentally, I’ll be back.”

Coach Cook added, “Malachi has a great mindset which in my opinion is most important and I truly believe he will be back stronger than ever.”

It’s easy for athletes to give up when dealing with an injury, but not Ciara and Malachi. They have surpassed all expectations and are ready to get back on the court and lead their teams once again.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Anna Barnes
Anna Barnes, Multimedia Staff
Hi, my name is Anna Barnes and the only thing you need to know about me is that I am probably the best junior in Smoke Signals. Compared to my fellow juniors I really rise to the top and knock the competition out of the water. Just kidding, kind of. If you can't tell already, I am a very humble and modest person. I have a duty to uphold and exceed the family legacy on the Smoke Signals staff but… it shouldn't be hard. On a real note, Smoke Signals is the best class ever and I am so excited to contribute to the staff this year.

Comments (0)

All Smoke Signals Student Media Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *