CHICAGO — The snap was sickening, the pain worse.
When Kentucky's Janee Thompson broke her left fibula and dislocated her left ankle during a game last season, she thought she might never walk again, let alone play basketball.
"I pretty much saw my leg twisted the wrong way on my body," the former Whitney Young star and Englewood native said. "I went into shock and panic, like, 'Somebody please help me.' You never expect something like that to happen on the basketball court. I wondered if I would be able to walk."
But Thompson did recover, and now the Wildcats point guard has Kentucky two home wins away from a trip to the Final Four. The third-seeded Wildcats host 7-seed Washington in a Sweet 16 game Friday in Lexington.
"I'm just happy that I'm here to tell my story, and that I'm playing," Thompson said. "I knew if I could get through this, I could get through anything."
Warning Graphic Video
Thompson has seen the video once, while she was going through rehab and learning to walk again. Diving for a loose ball against South Carolina on Jan. 11, 2015, Thompson's left leg was caught under a Gamecocks player, and it snapped in a horrifying direction. As trainers worked on her leg, Thompson could be heard on the video screaming in pain.
"I never want to see it again," Thompson said.
For Whitney Young coach Corry Irvin, Thompson's collegiate injury brought back painful memories of the guard in high school, who lost much of her junior season with a torn ACL.
"She has suffered two major injuries that would have made most girls quit," Irvin said. But "Janee is one of the best team leaders I have been around."
That has been evident this season as Thompson — the Wildcats' only senior — has started 31 of 32 games for Kentucky (25-7), averaging 12.7 points per game with a team-best 152 assists.
Wildcats assistant coach Camryn Whitaker said Thompson "has earned the respect of her teammates by her work ethic and vocal leadership throughout the year."
Sr. Editor Justin Breen talks about the inspirational Janee Thompson.
"I could not be more proud of her ability to overcome so much adversity and make it to this point," Whitaker said of Thompson, who was carried off the court in celebratory fashion during the Wildcats' recent Senior Night.
Thompson credited the coaching staffs at Kentucky and Whitney Young — and her current and former teammates — for inspiring her to return to the court.
She also said her South Side roots motivated her to play again.
"There are a lot of young girls who aren't blessed with certain gifts from God, or they don't have the opportunities that I've had," she said. "I try to play every game like it's my last because it can be. I've experienced that.
"I knew if I could get through this, I could get through anything. It's sort of like a life lesson."
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: