Autumn Childress. Remember that name. We told you earlier about the 5-10 guard from Midlothian High in Richmond (her Boo Williams coach Mike Davis touts her as ranked among the top five in her age group in the nation in middle school). But two knee injuries later left her future uncertain.
Fast forward to her senior year, and she's bound for Longwood, promising great things for a building Lancers program.
"Ever since I can remember, I've been playing the game of basketball,"Childress says. "There are pictures of me 2 and 3 years old holding a basketball. My dad was a big basketball guy, so he was a big factor getting me interested in the game. I've been playing so long, I can't remember how I got started."
But she does remember the injuries that sidelined her after a storied middle school career (she scored 32 in a game and holds the middle school record for career points).
Legend has it that because of the rule no freshman on varsity, Childress played JV for her first game in high school and scored 45.
"I don't think it was 45," she says with a laugh "I think it was 35. I didn't make varsity. They said I needed time to improve. That night, varsity lost by 30 and I got the call, 'Come to varsity tomorrow.' "
During her first AAU practice of freshman year, she went down with a knee injury.
"I tried to play it off like it was nothing," she says. "Eventually I went to the doctor and they told me I tore my meniscus in two places in my left knee."
Childress was devastated, but surgery and five months of rehab were the only option.
"Not playing again was never an option," she says.
Childress was thrilled to return to the court again for her sophomore season of high school. It ended almost before it began.
"It was the first game against Cosby, and within the first two minutes of the game, I was down again," she says. "This time it was more serious, and it was in my right knee -- a torn ACL, a torn MCL and two torn meniscus."
Childress reviewed the tape over and over. There was no contact.
"Nobody could believe it. My mom recorded the whole thing, and she stood there for a minute because she knew I was going to get up, that there was no way in the world I had hurt myself again. I was in shock for a while and then when it hit me. It was really, really hard, especially seeing all of my friends doing what I couldn't do.
One surgery, requiring doctors to take skin from her patella to fix her ACL, nine months of rehab and two big scars followed.
Childress knew she'd return.
"It was just a matter of when and how," she says. "As far as recruiting wise, I knew I'd have to work harder than the next person to get back to where I used to be. My coach, parents and family were telling me it wasn't a setback, just a set-up for something greater."
North Carolina and Maryland sent mail early, but missing two critical summers for recruiting limited the interest. Smaller schools took notice, including North Carolina A&T, Mount. St. Mary's, Elon and Longwood. Admittedly, she dreamed of the ACC once, but after the injuries, she strived to get her game back -- which now includes a nice outside shot from the top of the key -- and achieve a scholarship.
Longwood liked her game, she says, and was impressed by her academics. The visit to Farmville went well. In June she returned to the campus for Girls State, a summer leadership and citizen program sponsored by the American Legion, -- which just happened to be on the Longwood campus -- and her decision was made.
"While I was at Girls State, I went to the coach's office, and he offered me a full ride," she says. "I accepted it at the end of July when I was at a tournament in D.C."
Childress promises her knees are healed. She doesn't play with fear nor does she play with a brace on either leg.
"People think I'm crazy," she says. "But I just don't."
She is one of two seniors on her high school team.
"I want to lead my team in every way possible," she says. "The coaches said the hardest thing to adjust to is the speed of the game. I really want to work on keeping up with the speed of the game. They also want me to play point guard (at Longwood) because I can handle the ball, and I'm not used to playing point guard, so I'm going to work on that so I'll be ready."
Childress plans to major in communications. She mention NCAA compliance officer as a possible career.
Her favorite players are Seimone Augustus and Monica Wright (not surprisingly the Lynx is her team). Childress also enjoys writing on her own, and she plays piano (her speciality is "Let It Be" by the Beatles). You'll rarely find her tweeting, but Instagram is her thing.
"I like laughing and smiling and making other people laugh and smile,"
We imagine in little more than a year, she'll make Lancer fans plenty happy.