NORTH CANTON  Most high school athletes have a thought or two about how their senior season will unfold.

Whether it’s winning a state championship or league title, breaking a school record or simply beating their biggest rival one last time, those dreams precede what they hope will be a memorable final campaign for their team.

So what happens when that dream season takes a sharp left turn before it even begins, with a serious injury keeping that athlete from playing that last season of high school sports?

Hoover senior basketball player Makenna Drabick found herself answering that question this summer, when a tournament game for her AAU team turned out to be a contest that changed the course of her senior year.

"I was playing at my last AAU game ever for my high school career in Cincinnati at the end of July," Drabick said. "I went up for a rebound, came straight down and just started screaming for about 10 seconds, then pain went away. I tried to walk off, but it just gave out."

Drabick's parents, Nick and Robinne, were at the game and although they had never come out onto the court before due to an injury, on that day they rushed out to Makenna’s side. While the trainer initially hoped she might have avoided a torn ligament, an MRI a few days later revealed a completely torn ACL and a small amount of meniscus damage.

The diagnosis meant that she would likely miss her entire senior season, leaving Drabick with a decision.

She could go about her rehab and do her own thing, or she could rehab her injury and be as much a part of the team as possible. The choice, it turned out, didn’t take long.

"It was actually an automatic for me, as soon as I went down for my injury, I thought, ‘Oh no, I could be out my senior year,’ but I wanted to be around and I thought it could improve my leadership skills even more," Drabick said. "I definitely talked to my family about a lot of things and my doctor especially, so even if I was cleared (to participate), I would be totally healed up, that’s the main thing, but never had thought not to go to anything with the team."

That decision, it turned out, has made for a rewarding, but challenging road. Drabick admitted that game days are the toughest for her, knowing she won’t be out there with her teammates, and there have been moments when the emotions and challenges have gotten to her.

Still, she’s done her best to keep her head up and has looked to former teammates like Maddie Blyer, along with friends at other schools who have gone through similar circumstances, as well as WNBA players who have dealt with the same challenges.

There are days she can’t be at practice due to rehab sessions, but for the most part, she’s there at practices and games alike, trying to encourage her teammates and contribute to the team.

"It’s definitely taught me things from a different perspective. I didn’t really know what it would feel like because it was a struggle at the beginning, knowing I would be out for my senior year," Drabick said. "I’ve learned the game a lot better, seeing it from a different perspective."

As for the idea that not being around basketball because she isn’t able to play, Drabick doesn’t believe that would be beneficial for her.

"I think it helps rather than sitting around too. It’s tough, but I want to be selfless and be there for my team," she said.

It may not be the senior season she had in mind before the injury, but now that she’s in a difficult position, Drabick is doing what many other high school athletes in the area and across the United States are doing when a knee, ankle, shoulder or other injury sidelines them for an entire season: working on getting healthy and at the same time, finding ways to contribute to the cause beyond points scored or minutes played.

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB