Albany High’s Alondra Calhoun overcame a near fatal injury to become one of the Squaws’ go-to-players this year. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
ALBANY — Alondra Calhoun can faintly remember her near career-threatening injury during a basketball game last season against Dougherty High.
She remembers going for a rebound and tussling with Dougherty’s Ra’keta Shelton for the loose ball. Calhoun, a freshman, tried to wrestle the ball away but took an elbow to the right side of the face during the scramble.
She doesn’t remember much after that.
“Coach kept telling me, ‘Alondra, Alondra, go back’ (on defense),” she said. “I remember falling to the floor and saying ‘My eye, my eye.’ “
The incident will forever be etched in the quiet, shy sophomore’s mind.
Many of her teammates thought Calhoun was fine. But when the Squaws headed for the locker room, things weren’t good.
“Going into locker room, she could barely walk and she was all dizzy and stuff,” said teammate Lindneshia Hudson, who was on the court when Calhoun went down. “And she had a big knot on her forehead.”
Calhoun left, went to the emergency room and learned she had a concussion and that her lower cheek bone was fractured. She would miss the remainder of the season.
She’s back this year and her miraculous story is one that Albany High will never get tired of telling. She overcame an injury that nearly ended her playing days, and she’s has been a bright spot for the Squaws. Calhoun has emerged as a talented post/power forward whom coach Telly Turner believes is destined for greater things.
Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of Calhoun’s injury, leading some to question why she is even back on the court.
“I understand what some people are saying,” Hudson said. “But she’s tough, and she needed to show people that her hit is not going to affect Albany High.”
With basketball being a physical sport, Turner took many blows to the head as a player. She never knew the extent of Calhoun’s injury until hearing the physician’s report.
“A lot of times when you don’t see blood, you don’t know the severity,” Turner said. “That was pretty serious.”
Calhoun spent the night undergoing CT scans, then was released early Saturday morning. Her parents would not allow her to attend the Squaws’ game the following day. She rested that weekend, then returned to school the following week where she had consistent headaches, blurred vision and constant memory loss.
Her concussion caused her to struggle in the classroom, which had never been an issue.
Doctors gave her a strict regiment for several weeks, which included no television and no writing. She had to learn by listening.
“I thought to myself, ‘Can she live?’ because the things the doctor told her not to do are things people do on a daily basis,” Turner said.
After further review, doctors determined the fracture occurred just a few inches from her brain. They told her that if the blow she took had been any harder, it could have been tragic.
The Albany High standout followed orders from the medical staff, which meant missing the remainder of the regular season. She returned last spring for some offseason conditioning, then played during the summer for her AAU team.
“A lot of players get injuries, and they try to come back too quickly,” Turner said. “They don’t understand the long-term effects coming back too soon can have. But she followed the doctor’s orders.”
This season, she has improved tremendously and has become the Squaws’ go-to-player. She is averaging 14 points, six rebounds and four steals per game for Albany, which is still looking for its first win this season.
Turner said she’s used Calhoun as an example to her younger players. The sophomore spends countless extra hours in the gym, and she’s a student of the game. Turner said most players don’t develop into strong players until their junior year. She said Calhoun has been an exception.
“She has really stepped up to be a solid player for us,” Turner said. “Every team needs a go-to-player. As a sophomore, she has become that player.”
She said she could look at that Saturday last January as a bad day. But she’ll smile and look back at how far she’s come in a year, which has been one to remember.