Jarrod Holmlund was 22 games into the first basketball season without an injury when he found himself lying on the court, once again.
The Moffat County junior, who broke his right ankle his freshman year and his left ankle his sophomore year, was credited by his coach as being the most improved player on the varsity team last year.
Holmlund averaged nine points a game, and he and fellow junior Kevin Loughran established themselves as two of the best post players in the Western Slope League.
Only 35 seconds into the state playoffs, Holmlund grabbed a lob pass on the Bulldogs' first offensive possession and came down on a defender. He was assisted off the court and never returned.
"I didn't really know how bad it was because, at first, it didn't hurt," he said. "Then I tried to run on it in the hall, and I couldn't."
Holmlund ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
"My first thoughts were that I had to get healthy as soon as possible," he said. "The priority was to have a chance to get ready for my most important year of basketball."
Monday practice started for the basketball team, but Holmlund wasn't there. He's close to being healthy, but not close enough to practice.
"I was expecting to get back right at the beginning," he said. "The timing wasn't right yet."
On Tuesday, Holmlund was at Craig Physical Therapy working with physical therapist Leslie Bene. The CPT building has been the hangout for Holmlund since the spring.
"I was in here doing therapy before the surgery," he said.
The first surgery was March 16. A month after the procedure, an abnormal amount of scar tissue had developed in the knee.
"I had more scar tissue than I should have had," he said. "They told me I had seven weeks of scar tissue in the fourth week."
The rehabilitation wasn't going as planned.
"After his first surgery he was regressing," Bene said.
A lack of progress turned into a struggle for the senior-to-be.
"It was frustrating at times because I wasn't getting better," he said. "But then I thought of people who had fought back from worse like (senior) Zach (Haddan) and it gave me motivation."
Haddan and Holmlund struggled with injuries their freshman and sophomore years. Haddan's problems stemmed from broken bones, but he developed a disease that wouldn't let his bones heal. Both athletes had their healthiest years during their junior years. Haddan injured himself during homecoming activities this fall, and he's likely done for the year.
"Zach was someone who would hit big shots for us," Holmlund said. "(Watching him get hurt again) has made me want to get back even more."
A second surgery Oct. 10 put Holmlund on crutches during homecoming this year. The routine second surgery to clean out scar tissue turned out to be more for the Moffat County student.
"They scoped my knee because things weren't getting better," he said.
The surgery repaired part of a re-injured meniscus, and additional scar tissue was found under the knee.
"They think that scar tissue under the knee was a blood clot," he said. "It is what kept my knee from straightening."
Improvement started to come after the second surgery.
"People hear that I had a second surgery, and they think I'm done," Holmlund said. "But it wasn't a setback, it was a jump forward."
Bene has been pleased with the progress since the second surgery.
"It's a difference of night and day," she said. "Now his knee is close to being a picture-perfect knee, post-ACL surgery."
On Tuesday, Holmlund was centimeters away from completely straightening his right leg. That was before stretching and exercising it.
"You'll be able to get it today," Bene said at the start of the session.
The Bulldogs won't see Holmlund at practice for at least another week. Bene predicted he'd be ready in two to four weeks.
The senior is eager but cautious.
"I feel a lot stronger now but I know I have to be patient," he said.
And his coach, Scott Parker, is being patient, as well.
"Parker told me not to rush it back," Holmlund said. "They'll need me when it comes time to play league games."
The Bulldogs' first Western Slope League game is Jan. 6.
"I've worked on my shot and I have contacts now so I can see better," he said.
He will play with a brace all season. And by all season, the plan is every game.
"Hopefully, I've used up all my injuries," he said. "Nobody wants a repeat of my sophomore year when I injured the opposite ankle."