A torn achilles takes a long time to heal, and you won’t be the same afterwards. For McPherson High School’s Mandi Cooks what feels like six years has been six months since the last time she played on the court. Three games in, the senior still has a long way to go.

Cooks’ injury happened on July 11 during an AAU tournament. She was fresh off her past injury after suffering a partial patellar tendon, located in the lower knee area. She was shuffling her feet while on defense, then felt a snap as if someone kicked her from behind. At least that’s what she thought.

While screaming in agony, she hopped off the court. At first she thought it was minor and felt she could shake it off, jump up and down and get back in the game. However, she wasn’t able to move her foot in result of a dead leg. After getting looked at by doctors, the MRI would tell her that she tore her right achilles. Her bone split right up the middle between her calf and her heel. Doctors described it as an injury of a 70-year-old male.

After her surgery, Cooks was not allowed to make any contact with her leg. Also a star volleyball player, Cooks had to miss the entire 2017 season along with the first half of the basketball season.

Knowing she couldn’t do anything for a long period of time, Cooks worked on her maturity level while dealing with her injury. She believes that dealing with her injury is more mental than physical.

“I feel like six-and a-half months has grown me as a person. It was hard knowing that I had to deal with it mentally being out six months,” Cooks said.

Cooks was making progress after months of rehabbing and finally able to put pressure on her foot. As she was ahead of schedule, Cooks was finally ready to get back doing what she loved.

Cooks made her way back on the court as a reserve just in time for the Mid America Classic on Jan. 25. Lady Pups’ head coach Chris Strathman called her name and told her to take a deep breath, knowing the adrenaline rushed down her face and the energy she brings on the sideline. Once she got in, the crowd at the Roundhouse cheered their hearts out for the senior, knowing this was her first game back. Even though her minutes were limited, Cooks was pleased to finally get another chance to play basketball again.

“I was just ready. It’s hard to explain. I was excited but was ready to play. Six months is a long time,” Cooks said.

As the Lady Pups competed in the finals of the MAC championship the following Saturday, Cooks played more minutes and was a factor in their victory over Manhattan High School. Still a reserve player, when she went back on the bench to rest, she wouldn’t sit down. She would either be walking back and forth while warming herself up or kept cheering for teammates. After defeating Manhattan, Cooks finished the night with 15 points and was six-for-six on the front court.

“To play that well tonight, 15 points in 16 minutes, with only her third game back, she was phenomenal tonight,” Strathman said. “I’m very proud of her and all the work that she put in to come back for this moment.”

Despite the performance that she had, Cooks is still not in perfect condition and Stratham is not looking to rush her back into the lineup. Cooks even admitted after the game that she still wasn’t at her best due to her fatigue level and her leg remaining vulnerable.

“I don’t feel like I’m 100 percent yet because I can still tell that my leg is weak in some spots, and I’m still out of shape, so I have to go in and out,” Cooks said. “I know from this point on, it’s going to improve every game and every practice. Every hour and and every minute I’m going to keep getting better and be unstoppable and it will be a great feeling.”

Full of confidence and energy, Cooks, a University of Texas San Antonio commit, is determined to get back in full-form and does not regret what happened to her six months ago. She does not take anything for granted and made sure that no matter what happens, she leaves it all on the court.

“Mentally I know now that I’m back out there, every second that I do I have no regrets. I just go out there and play my heart out,” Cooks said.