Even as he hobbles on a fractured left knee, senior forward Trey Suttles won't accept that his basketball playing days at Tyner High School are finished.
The Rams' top scorer and rebounder, having charted the weeks for a couple different recovery projections, sounds intent upon healing in time for a postseason return.
"If the doctor predicted his weeks right, I could be back for sub-state," Suttles said. "If we make it to state, I'll definitely be back."
The 6-foot-2 Suttles sounded chirpy as ever during Thursday's practice. A walking affirmation for the power of positive energy, he's maximizing his down time by motivating teammates who have gone 4-1 in his absence. He's also awaiting the outcome from Wednesday's MRI, which will clarify the severity and category of the break.
"If you know me, I'm just an upbeat person. I never get down," Suttles said. "And there's still a chance I can come back, so I've gotta stay positive. If I get negative, the whole team can get negative. Attitudes are contagious, as coach likes to say."
Rams coach Gerald Harris also likes to say, "We gotta hold the rope." And even should Suttles be lost for the balance of the season, Harris won't tolerate excuses from a team (19-5, 10-3) tied for the lead in District 6-AA.
"When something like this happens, the rest of us just need to hold the rope a little tighter," Harris said.
Despite losing Suttles' nightly contributions of 16 points, 13 rebounds and "an extremely high basketball IQ," the coach emphasizes that everyone is still "being held accountable for doing their jobs and our goals are the same."
Tyner carried a 10-0 record into the Best of Preps tournament championship game against McCallie on Dec. 23 — the night Suttles believes he was first injured.
While jumping to block a shot, he felt the kneecap pop. "But it didn't give out, so I just kept playing," said Suttles, who wound up with 14 points in a 48-39 loss.
He dealt with occasional bouts of discomfort until Jan. 24, when he scooped up a loose ball as a Red Bank player brushed against the knee.
"I went on down court and dunked it, but after that, I knew it was over," Suttles said.
Now he has swelling and limited range of motion in the knee. Though doctors recommended crutches, Suttles rarely uses them. His No. 1 fan and conditioning coach — his mom — has Suttles walking the hill in front of their house in hopes he can stay in playing shape.
"My momma played high school ball at Notre Dame and she loves the game even more than me," he said. "She's usually the loudest one at the game. She loves to cheer me on, as any parent should. Somehow she always ends up on the news."
Suttles projects to shift to guard in college, where he's receiving interest from Division II programs such as Tusculum and Lincoln Memorial, as well as NAIA members Lindsey Wilson College and Freed-Hardeman.
Yet that college decision is on the back burner until Tyner's' season plays out. One of seven seniors on the roster, Suttles is encouraging his teammates to mimic his physical style and chase every missed shot.
"I'm not trying to brag, but that's 13 rebounds a game, so we've got to have somebody else go get those rebounds," he said.
As the Rams prepare to host Red Bank in Friday's regular-season finale, Harris appreciates his star player's refusal to sulk.
"For sure, it's disappointing that this happened during his senior year, but he's keeping that part to himself," Harris said. "Trey's been handling it well, keeping in good spirits. He's been at every practice except one, when he had to go to the doctor. He's active on the sideline, trying to motivate the kids."
Sign up for our email list to get your morning news delivered directly to your inbox. All we need is your email address.