Photo by Derrick Mahone
Forest Park guard Kayla Potts has returned to the Lady Panthers lineup after a 375-day hiatus while she rehabbed her knee following surgery from a 2011 injury.
FOREST PARK — On Tuesday, Kayla Potts name was finally penciled in as a starter.
It had been 375 days since the Forest Park junior went down with a knee injury that required surgery on her ACL and MCL.
After a year of rehabbing the right knee, Potts is back on the court.
She made the return in a 57-9 win over Ola in a Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A contest on Tuesday in McDonough. When the Lady Panthers take on Mount Zion tonight, she will play in her first home contest of the season.
“It was definitely a relief getting back out there and playing,” Potts said during a break in Wednesday’s practice. “I’ve been waiting for that moment.”
And Potts resembled her old self in the blowout win with nine points and five assists. The former all-county selection provided a big boost for the Lady Panthers, who are 10-6 and unranked in Class AAAAA.
After the game, Potts said she didn’t experience any swelling, which was a good sign.
Lady Panthers coach Steven Cole said he was impressed with her first outing after a year’s layoff.
“Kay is about 80 percent now,” Cole said. “With her on the court, and back playing, it cuts our turnovers in half. She might not be as fast or can jump as high, but she definitely has a good knowledge of the game.”
Gaining that knowledge might’ve been the silver lining to her absence.
Potts attended each game and sat on the bench. She said she was able to gain a lot of perspective into what Cole expects.
“It is definitely a different view from the bench,” Potts said. “I got to see what coach Cole is looking for out of us. You see things different sitting on the bench. I’m hoping to use what I’ve learned to make myself a better player and our team better. You miss being out there, but I took the opportunity to learn.”
With the graduation of its leading scorer from last season, Potts is expected to make a big contribution this season. Not only is her scoring ability vital to the Lady Panthers success, but Cole is expecting her to provide some leadership.
Potts was the team’s second-leading scorer her freshman season when the Lady Panthers reached the Class AAAA finals. They lost 55-45 to Fayette County. Potts hit several free throws down the stretch that kept the game close until the Lady Tigers prevailed.
While Potts’ teammates are relying on her to help them make another deep state playoff run, it was the support of those same players that helped in her year-long rehab.
Potts knew she wasn’t alone in her attempt to comeback from an ACL injury.
Over the last two years, Forest Park has had five players to recovery from an ACL injury.
“We sort of know the process of recovering from that injury,” Cole said.
Three of the players have already graduated, but junior Tiffany Wilson has been there as a support system for Potts. Wilson, a 6-foot-1 wing player, returned to the team last summer after a year’s rehab on her knee.
“Tiffany has been here to tell Kay about what to expect,” Cole said. “She has been able to tell her about the different milestones to look for.”
Said Wilson: “The biggest thing is that you have to learn to trust your knee again. I didn’t try to use things. We are a close group and rely on each other.”
And that has been good for Potts.
“I’ve talked to her about this situation,” Potts said. “As I keep playing, I know I’m going to get stronger.”
And so will the Lady Panthers.