Arab senior Natalie Hunt has been looking forward to her senior season of basketball for a long time. She put in the work and attended camps in the offseason and she was eager to continue her record-breaking career with the Lady Knights.

Then, in an instant, it was all over, in the first formal preseason practice of all times (Oct. 21). She tore an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in one of her knees. Even in a day when modern medicine works miracles for athletes, an ACL injury is one diagnosis athletes fear above most.

These days, ACL injuries typically knock an athlete out for the rest of their season. Not too long ago, they shelved athletes for 12 months or more.

But when you’re a senior and you’re told you won’t be able to start running for about 12 weeks, well, it’s devastating.

“She worked so hard for this and for it to end like that, on the first day of practice, it just really disappointed her,” said her mother, Adi.

Natalie is the daughter of Adi and Barry Hunt. She’s the younger sister of former Lady Knights star Mary Paige Hunt.

Hunt and co-seniors Elizabeth Brodhage, Tristen White, Grace Crawley and Aaliyah Hardin figured to be the core of coach Jessica Thompson’s team this season. Now, they’ll have to deal with a critical missing cog, both in terms of talent and leadership.

The family will have to deal with the emotional part as well.

“Barry and I have watched Natalie play the sport she loves since second grade, both school and travel basketball,” said her equally devastated mother.

Dr. Lyle Cain Jr. of the Andrews Clinic in Birmingham performed the surgery, and Natalie has begun the long road of rehabilitation.

“She’s started rehab, two and three times a day, sometimes with crocodile tears, but she is such a trooper and a determined and tough young lady,” said her mother.

The accelerated rehab is mainly to get her ready to play college ball. Birmingham-Southern offered her a scholarship before the injury and afterward said the offer was still good. Natalie has yet to formally accept it, but chances are, she will.

Her chances of returning this high school season are considerably lower.

“Dr. Cain told us they hope to have her running in 12 weeks,” Adi said. “That puts it at about the last week of the season. So, yeah, she’s almost certainly done for this season.”

Adi, Barry and Natalie did want to thank everyone for the “visits, texts, prayers and goodies.”

“We really do appreciate it and it has helped to cheer Nat up,” Adi posted on Facebook. “We are looking forward to Arab basketball beginning Tuesday night at Cullman, and we wish this large senior class the best of luck.

“It is such a great group of kids.”

• Bama fans, today you’re more interested in another game. But keep in mind that next Saturday, the Marshall County Bama Club will have a watch party for the Mississippi State game at Wintzell’s Oyster House in Guntersville. The club has reserved the private dining room.

There is no cost other than the food and drinks that you wish to purchase while watching the game and enjoying the fellowship of other Crimson Tide family and friends.

The game starts and the restaurant opens at 11 a.m., but you’ll likely be able to enter a few minutes early. RSVP is not required.

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