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A healthy Hargrove helps to lead Hylton

When Hylton junior Kendall Hargrove broke his tibia six games into the 2008-09 season, landing awkwardly after a layup in practice, there were two ways he figured that he could handle things.

The first option was to disappear, to focus solely on rehabbing his right leg and not on the pain he felt because an entire year of high school basketball had been wiped away.

Hargrove’s second option -- and the one he ultimately chose -- was to balance physical therapy with attending every practice, every game and continuing to inject levity into the atmosphere for Hylton, which went 20-6 last winter and reached the Northwest Region semifinals.

“I was just telling the players jokes to keep them loose during and after the games, just having fun,” said Hargrove, who's one of several players around the area to return from injury this season, a topic you can read more about here.

Fully recovered, Hargrove’s antics have translated on the court as well.

Through 15 games, Hargrove is averaging a team-high 14.2 points per game. He’s also contributing seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks a night for the Bulldogs, who are 7-8 overall, 4-4 in the Cardinal District.

After scoring 20 points in six games last winter, Hargrove had two screws and a plate inserted just under his kneecap on Jan. 6, 2009 by Kenneth Ward, a doctor at INOVA Fairfax Hospital.

By the beginning of March, he was walking with minimal stiffness and met with Ward for his two-month follow-up appointment. And according to Hargrove, Ward laughed after checking things out and jokingly asked why he had even bothered showing up; the leg was fine.

A few weeks later, Hargrove was immersed in a physical therapy program, spending six hour-long sessions every week dedicated to strengthening his leg and improving his mobility.

“My doctor just kept my head on straight,” Hargrove said. “He said I would be OK because I didn’t tear any ligaments. I just kept a positive head and kept working hard.”

Hargrove’s hard work has been extremely beneficial to Hylton, which lost eight seniors from last year’s group, including Keith Mitchell (Harcum) and Darrell Patterson (Potomac State).

One of few returners with any varsity experience, Hargrove was moved by Coach Barry Smith to the point after the holiday break this season. The coach hoped his vision could spur the Bulldogs’ offense. And though the adjustment was slow -- the Bulldogs lost those first two games -- wins over Forest Park and Woodbridge have validated Smith’s decision.

“It’s been very big for us because of the experience that he has,” Smith said. “We moved him to the point, making him become more of a leader."

The injury has been an even bigger part of the transformation, Hargrove said. Not only did he develop into a more vocal presence because of his time spent solely on telling jokes and motivating his teammates, the rehab process also helped Hargrove come back stronger, with an increased ability to get to the basket -- and even dunk.

“With the rehab, he came back stronger,” said Smith, whose will travel to Freedom-Woodbridge on Feb. 2. “It’s almost like they gave him a bionic leg; he’s jumping out of the gym. Knock on wood, he’s doing all the things we knew he was capable of doing.”

By Jason Mackey  |  January 25, 2010; 11:32 AM ET
Categories:  Boys' Basketball , Cardinal District , Hylton  
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