CHICAGO—McDonald’s All-American DiJonai Carrington has already faced more injuries in her high school years than most athletes have to deal with in an entire career. The Horizon (San Diego) High School star tore her ACL in her left leg in 2013, and then in the August of 2015, she tore her other ACL.
Somehow, she has emerged from these two injuries with an attitude that belies her 18 years. Carrington had set a goal to play in the Jordan Brand Game and the McDonald’s All-American Game—which tips Wednesday at the United Center in Chicago—and she was not going to let another injury stop her.
“I saw what I wanted, and I knew that if I didn’t do what it takes to get there, I’m never going to be happy. I want to be happy! It’s what I need to do to be happy for myself and to feel like I didn’t cheat myself, because I know my potential,” Carrington said.
In 2013, Carrington said she knew her ACL was torn when she went down. But she had no idea her leg was so badly injured the second time around because she walked off the court. She said she wasn’t prepared for the news.
“I was devastated. I had just come back, I was almost two years out,” the Stanford signee said. “I hadn’t prepared myself mentally. I wasn’t ready.”
She had seven months to get back, and attaining those goals meant she had to focus in on rehab and training, and work on the mental side of coming back as well.
“I really had to dial in to physical therapy every day, go seeing my trainer, and doing a lot of mental work. I had to talk to myself. Did a lot of scripture reading,” Carrington said.
But her injury also allowed her to develop new aspects to her game. Carrington was not limited to taking threes and driving to the basket any more.
“I had to shoot mid-range because I couldn’t do anything else. I had time to develop and shoot and learn new things,” she said. “I’ve learned how to control my body a lot better. When I go to the basket, I don’t fall down as much. I have a strong body, and now I can use it to get in at the defender and still stay on my feet.”
Now, she’s headed to Stanford with fellow All-Americans Nadia Fingall and Anna Wilson confident she did everything she could to meet her goals.
“If I would have sold myself short, and would have done the typical rehab, I would not be here right now. I wouldn’t have been able to come back in the season and play in any games, I wouldn’t play in the Jordan, I wouldn’t be ready for Stanford,” Carrington said.