Cleveland, we have clearance to land David Lighty. After eight long months, he's back in action once again.
For the first time since Lighty tore his ACL in a district championship game on March 6, the 6-5 senior is now cleared to play basketball at 100 percent. But before Lighty can takeoff, he must first learn to land.
Literally and figuratively speaking.
The repaired ACL is healed, but essentially the knee ligaments are structured differently than they once were. This means Lighty has to adjust to landing, sprinting and turning all over again while regaining stamina in his legs.
"I'm playing," Lighty said Tuesday night, "I'm just still trying to get my strength back and it gets kind of tired sometimes."
For a couple of months, he has been cleared to run on the knee as far as sprints and straight ahead running, but just a couple of weeks ago he was finally told by doctors he could play basketball once again.
Now the Cleveland Villa Angela – St. Joseph senior ranked No. 29 by ScoutHoops.com is trying to redefine his game and emerge as the player he was before the injury last spring. Last year, he averaged 24 points a game.
Because of the added upper body strength Lighty gained while rehabilitating the knee, he is hoping some added strength pays dividends.
"I'm guessing 270 right now," Lighty said with a laugh. "I was at 220 last year."
If there is a silver lining in sustaining such an injury, perhaps that's it. Lighty reports he's in the best physical shape of his life after getting back from the injury.
It's similar to being a teenager and having parents tell you that you're not allowed to do something under the heading of, ‘we're doing it for your own good.'
Nobody ever likes to hear that, but often times you look back at it later and realize they were right. That's probably what Lighty is facing right now.
Eight months ago he could have quit and he could have let a serious injury stop him. But he listened to everyone that told him he would come back bigger, stronger and faster than ever.
"I was thinking I was going to be all out of shape and everything before the season," Lighty said, "but I think it actually kind of helped my physical game and I got to sit down and watch film on things I need to work on. It helped me out on a lot actually."
Perhaps this was the road less traveled. Perhaps no one hopes to have to go through an injury such as this one to reach a peak of physical ability.
The end does not justify the means.
But now that Lighty has made a full recovery, a lot is left to the imagination. Even Lighty wonders what it will be like to get back into a game situation.
"I have to get back into game speed and cut to the basket a little more," Lighty noted, "but the shots have been falling most of the days. It's just a little different."
When it's all said and done, Lighty has made it clear he aspires to be a McDonald's All American when he arrives on campus in Columbus next fall. Although the injury may have removed the chances of that happening, he'll be landing in Columbus with a mission.
But part of Lighty is already hanging out in Columbus psychologically.
"It's like I'm there already, like I'm part of the team," Lighty said with another laugh. "I'm excited about this season. I think they will be really good."
As of November 9, Lighty will be able to officially call himself a Buckeye when the November signing period for NCAA basketball teams begins. It's a weeklong period that teams can sign senior and transfer prospects to nation letters of intent.
Although nothing will be decided until the first week of November, the feeling seems to be a positive one from Lighty's perspective.
"They (the Ohio State coaches) haven't really talked about any of that," Lighty said. "I think everyone will sign and make it final."
Even though Cook could join Lighty in becoming a Buckeye on November 9, they both will turn to successful high school teams with high aspirations.
This season, Dunbar will likely be ranked No. 1 in the state in Division II, as it returns all five starters. Villa Angela – St. Joseph, meanwhile, is hoping to make it one step further than their loss in the regional finals last season.
"We would like to," Lighty said. "We were planning on playing them last year but we lost a game."
It would serve notice to many people if it happened: David Lighty has landed.
It's not like he ever really left.