A painful injury threatened to derail Ali Brown's promising high school basketball career.
But her persistence and hard work helped her take her game to another level.
Brown was an overachieving freshman whose hustle and determination helped make her the junior varsity MVP at Canyon Crest Academy.
It was during a nonleague tournament game against Ramona early in her sophomore season last December when an opposing player trying to block a Brown layup knocked her to the ground. She assumed her season was over after she broke her wrist trying to stop her fall.
But instead of shutting down, the injury only made Brown more determined.
Although unable to dribble with her natural right hand wrapped up in a cast, she kept going to practices, working on dribbling with her left hand.
"I got pretty good at it," she said. "That's pretty much all I worked on."
Brown worked her way back into the mix in time for the Ravens' playoff run last year. She scored 12 points in a first-round playoff victory over Mission Bay, although she admits she was a little tentative, fearing another tumble could cause further damage.
But finally playing at full strength at a summer league tournament last month, Brown, who's now ostensibly an ambidextrous dribbler, was beaming with confidence. Her ability to dribble with both hands figures to create matchup nightmares for defenders who'll probably need extra help on presses and traps.
Brown will be the Ravens' starting point guard in her upcoming junior year, coach Terry Ryan said.
"I think it made me a better player," Brown said of the injury. "I'm pretty good with my left hand now, so I'm more confident with my dribbling."
Brown said the play on which she was hurt wasn't dirty, just a "clean, hard foul." No hard feelings, Brown said.
Even before her injury, Brown had her teammates and coaches respect for her whatever-it-takes approach, Ryan said, noting she's a relentless defender who routinely dives for loose balls.
That respect grew as she continued trying to improve her game even while she was hurt, Ryan said.
"I really love the sport, and I always try to work hard as I can when I'm out there," Brown said.
Brown said that's how she approaches everything she does. She has also excelled academically at CCA.
Brown is a two-sport athlete who also plays on the softball team. She plays second base and was among the team's leading hitters last season.
Brown doesn't just thrive on doing the team's dirty work. She has become an excellent jump shooter who's more than capable of hitting clutch shots from beyond the arc, Ryan said.
Ryan admits Brown's development has been a pleasant surprise, noting that he never expected her to become the player she is now.
He attributes her development in all areas to hard work and determination, traits that he says rub off on her Ravens teammates.
"She definitely inspires her teammates the way she plays," Ryan said. "She never gives up on a play."
Brown could play either or both sports in college, probably a smaller Div. III school, Ryan said.
Brown has played both sports since she was 6 years old. She started out playing softball, and then got into basketball at the prodding of her older brother Adam, a former CCA soccer player.
"I just really enjoyed both, so I stuck with it," she said.
Brown said she'll probably choose one in college, noting the demands on her time would be too much. She's already juggling a year-round softball schedule (she plays travel ball, too) and basketball. She hasn't decided on her major yet, but said she has considered something sports-related, possibly sports medicine.
Among her favorite hobbies is cooking, something that has made her the Ravens' go-to source for baking cakes and cookies for teammates' birthdays.
"She's an outgoing kid who everybody seems to like," Ryan said. "She always seems to be happy. Even when she was hurt, she went to all our practices and all our games, always very supportive of the team."