Jacob Bailey is on the long road back.
Tthe Union Local senior suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament during the latter stages of basketball season and he honestly believed that he'd never be able or want to play the sport he loved again.
"I didn't think I'd ever want to touch a basketball again," Bailey said. "I didn't want to get that kind of injury again."
However, after undergoing the operation, which his doctors felt went better than even they expected because no damage had been done to anything other than the ACL, and beginning the rehabilation process, Bailey got to talking to some of his friends and family and made a decision.
"I want to play again," Bailey said. "I want my basketball career to end with me walking off the court instead of someone (carrying) me off the court due to an injury."
That's the thought process Bailey has utilized as he's continued his rehab with the hopes of being back to full strength in five to seven months.
At that time, Bailey will have the opportunity to give playing another shot. He's going to continue his education and playing career at Ohio University Eastern for head coach Donnie Madzia.
"I'd like to come back and play in December, but I'm not going to push it," Bailey explained. "I'm going to come back when I am fully confident in my knee and my doctor and therapist give me the OK to play."
During the course of last season, Bailey - a four-year mainstay for the Jets - surpassed the 1,000 point mark and finished with 1,071 points. He was named to the OVAC All-Star Game and actually got into the game and scored a bucket despite his knee trouble.
"I was devastated when I got the news that I had a complete tear of my ACL because I didn't think the injury was going to be as bad as it really was," Bailey recalled. "I never imagined my high school career ending like that."
Bailey leaned on his father, Rick, who had the same injury 20 years ago, and fellow Union Local student-athlete Amanda Swallie, who also underwent a major knee operation and returned to the softball field this spring. He also spoke highly of UL assistant coach Zach Delman for his advice.
"They really motivated me to get back on the court," Bailey said. "Amanda had the same injury and she referred me to Dr. Fessiner."
Bailey's rehab is still an ongoing process, but he reports it's getting easier by the day.
"The toughest and slowest part was, for the first couple of weeks, trying to walk and get back the full mobility," Bailey said. "I'm starting to get all of my strength back in the knee. My physical therapist pushes me every visit."
Bailey, despite not being able to finish the season, was honored as third-team all-Ohio, all-Eastern District, all-District 12, all-OVAC, all-Buckeye 8, all-Times Leader, all-Valley. He's also the Union Local school record holder for career 3-point goals.
Jacob, who plans to major in psychology, is the son of Rick and Brenda Bailey.
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