One of the top 2007 point guards on the West Coast has had quite a dramatic couple of months. Sarah Morton, the 5-foot-8 cat quick guard from Monroe (Wash.) High School had a heart-wrenching ACL tear that ended her high school season prematurely - sandwiched between visits to Stanford, California and Oregon.
This injury however has not broken her spirits, perhaps in part due to her battle her first two years of high school hoops battling Osgood Slaughters. Osgood-Schlatter condition is a painful condition characterized by tiny, microfractures of the bony bump in the tibia where the patella is inserted into the tibia. It is a disorder of the early teens, especially athletes. The condition required resting when Morton wanted to be out working on her game, along with physical therapy and strength building. She battled through it and came out stronger. That's exactly what she expects to do with this injury.
"I try to look at the positives," Morton says. "There's nothing [I] can do now. Injuries - they happen. There's nothing you did wrong, so you can't look down on yourself. I've done [rehab] before. I'm going to get stronger and faster and come back ready to play."
You wonder what goes through a player's mind when they feel it go.
"The first thing I thought was, ‘I [have to] get off this court before people see me cry'. Second was, ‘Oh my gosh I tore my ACL'. And the third thing, ‘I hope we don't lose'."
Morton's ACL repair surgery took place February 28 at 10:15 a.m., and rehab is supposed to start in about a week. The early reports after surgery from her father were good. The surgery went well. No additional damage was found, and the tendon taken from her hamstring was strong. From here, it will be six to nine months of hard work. Morton has focused already on her goal of coming back for her senior high school season.
"I'm going to be out six to nine months. There's no reason to push it because I can't play summer ball," she reasons.
The four-star junior did benefit from a great summer in 2005 with the Spokane Stars, putting her on the recruiting map. All the college coaches that were actively recruiting Morton, including those that have offered her a scholarship, have assured her that the injury has not changed her status with them. Located just 30 miles north of Seattle, it is no surprise that she has been on the Washington campus before and has played in open gyms over the past few years. The Huskies, along with Cal, Florida State, Gonzaga, Oregon and Stanford, have been the most active in recruiting Morton.
This winter she took unofficial trips to Stanford and Cal in the Bay Area and just recently visited Oregon. January 21 brought her to The Farm, where the junior student-athlete spent the day on campus and took in the Cardinal's 84-78 win over Arizona State.
"I really like the campus," Morton reports. "It was really nice - probably the nicest that I've seen. I liked how everything is in one spot. It wasn't overwhelming; it's kind of small there."
Of the current team she adds, "I liked the coaches a lot. They took me into the locker room pre-game and after the game. I liked their intensity. [Rosalyn] Gold-Onwunde and Candice Wiggins - pushing it and attacking the paint. That's how I like to play, and the fans react to the team."
The only draw back that is apparent for Stanford would be the apparent logjam at the point guard position with Gold-Onwunde, Wiggins and incoming freshman JJ Hones. With such a young group of young ball handlers, competition could be fierce for minutes.
Cal too has a great young group that Morton and her family enjoyed seeing firsthand, the day after her Stanford visit. Despite the Golden Bears dropping a game to Arizona that night, Morton came away impressed with the school and the team.
"It reminded me a lot of U-Dub, being right there in the city," Morton offers. "Except a little nicer weather."
Bear backers have been raving about new head coach Joanne Boyle, and Morton has joined the party. "I liked her a lot," the recruit maintains. "She's down to earth and personable. [She] seems like you could get along with her really well. But she got intense, and got on the players. I like the intensity more."
More so Morton was impressed with the young core of the team. "The team is going to be good if they stay strong and healthy," Morton observes while noting Cal has played with only seven players in the regular rotation for much of the year due to injuries. "They're going to have a good team."
In February Morton and her family made the trip south Eugene for an unofficial visit to Oregon and the infamous Pit. But this was not the first time she had been to McArthur Court. The story dates back to her 8th grade select team, when they played a tournament in Oregon. Morton and a couple of teammates were checking out the campus and decided to visit the gym.
"We found a door that was open and nobody was in there. We did a three-man weave down and back," the recruit recalls. "My dad has the whole thing on tape."
On her visit, Morton had the chance to meet head coach Bev Miller and came away very impressed with new assistant Salina Ho, a former point guard who specializes in guard development for the Ducks.
"I really liked the coach," Morton declares. "I talked with Peg [Swadener] more, and guards coach Salina Ho. I liked Bev, though. When she talked to me, I thought it was going to be difficult to get to know her, but she really opened up. She drew some things up for me to show me what they do defensively, which is great because I'm kind of a visual learner."
"I liked the place," Morton comments on the campus. "It's a little smaller than the city atmosphere at U-Dub. The people are really nice. It feels like a home place, kind of like a family. And the Pit - I love it. It was only half full, and it was so loud."
Morton has a tough and exciting decision to make in the next eight months but won't have the luxury of playing spring and summer ball to distract her from the pressures of her college selection. Despite the injury, her outlook is positive and the coaches recruiting her no doubt want her suiting up in the future. Sarah Morton is a player who works hard to make everyone on the floor better, and she will be tireless as well in her rehabilitation and recruiting activities. For all of her latest in the coming months, stay tuned.
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