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Not giving in

Kelley Tarver’s knee gave in , but the Valencia High graduate isn’t about to

Posted: January 26, 2009 10:07 p.m.
Updated: January 27, 2009 4:55 a.m.

California State University, Bakersfield's Kelley Tarver (13) drives to the hoop past UCLA's Christina Nzekwe (4) on Dec. 3 at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.

 
On Dec. 12, the crowd at Walt McPherson Court in San Jose fell silent.

With 36 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the game was out of reach for the California State University, Bakersfield women's basketball team, but Kelley Tarver wasn't about to give up, nor was her team.

She remembers driving to the basket, taking a jump stop then crumbling.

After scoring 20 points up to that point against then-No. 6 Oklahoma in the Battle of the Bay Classic, Tarver suffered a devastating knee injury, ending her senior season prematurely.

According to Tarver, teammates could hear Tarver's knee ligaments crunch like the sound of potato chips.

"I'm thinking, please don't be an ACL because there is a chance I can't come back next year," recalls the Valencia High graduate. "This was supposed to be my senior class coming out."

Tarver not only tore her anterior cruciate ligament, but also the meniscus and a piece of the cartilage in her right knee.

"You can't describe it unless you go through it," Tarver says of the pain. "There are no words to describe it."

In her first eight games, Tarver was averaging 14.6 points, 3.1 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game.

With at least 20 games yet to play in the season, the all-time record for career points (Tarver is currently third with 1,231), field goals attempted (second at 1,032), free throws attempted (second at 479), steals (third at 188), and games started (second at 90) were within reach.

In fact, Tarver had started all but two games in which she had appeared during her collegiate career and already possessed the record for free throws made in a career with 359.

Tarver already owns every major statistical Valencia High record including points, assists, rebounds and steals in a career, along with points per game.

In fact, the top four scoring averages in the school's history belong to Tarver.

She could have let down, become wrapped up in self-pity.
Tarver herself acknowledges that she initially went through "a depression phase."

CSUB head coach Tim La Kose saw it coming too and said that he sat down with the senior to emphasize the importance of her response.

When Valencia head coach Jerry Mike heard of the injury, the concern was evident in his voice as well.

"If any player can, she can," Mike says of Tarver's chance of coming back from the injury. "She has incredible amount of drive. What a practice player she was. You couldn't really tell a difference between a game and a practice."

Mike recalls a game against Long Beach Poly her sophomore year.

At the time, the Jackrabbits were ranked in the in the top five nationally and were double and triple-teaming Tarver the whole game. Though Valencia eventually lost the game, Tarver finished it with 29 points.

"She almost carried us over a nationally ranked team," Mike says.

The game exhibited her drive and determination.

Now Mike says of her injury: "I know she will respond."
Tarver already has.

She is in the process of applying for a medical redshirt, possible because she played in less than 30 percent of the Roadrunners' games, none of which were in the second half of the season.

Tarver is on pace to graduate this spring with a degree in communications and hopes to go into broadcasting and coaching.

Expecting to be granted the redshirt, she will be able to come back next season while in her first year of a master's degree program.

In the meantime, she gets hands-on experience as she begins to realize her dream.

"Right now I'm just trying to work on being their No. 1 cheerleader," Tarver says of her team. "(I) work on being an assistant coach, and be positive."

After successful surgery on Jan. 7, Tarver is in her first week of rehabilitation.

She believes she will be back next winter and knows it will take commitment and dedication in her recovery.

With Tarver's level of intensity in mind, La Kose believes she will need to relax first and foremost as she heals.

"It's a process and she can't do it all in one day or one week," La Kose says. "(She's intense in) practice, games, checkers, whatever she's playing."

Tarver will have to reteach the muscles in her knee to contract and bear her weight while she works on her range of motion.

However, a medical redshirt was nearly unattainable.
Prior to their matchup with the Sooners, the Roadrunners took on Santa Clara on Dec. 6.

Tarver sat out the game with a heel bruise.

The game would have eclipsed the maximum allowable number of games to remain eligible for the fifth year.

In their ninth year of existence, and first year as a Division I school, everyone throughout the program is doing what they can to lay a foundation for success.

Tarver is no different.

Yes, it would be easier to make her contributions on the court.

However, her attitude and perseverance through a potentially career-ending injury will speak louder to her teammates.

"She has been here every day she can, encouraging her teammates and getting herself back in action," La Kose says.

The Roadrunners have 29 games on their schedule for the 2009-10 season.

Plenty of games for Tarver to pick up where she left off.


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