Most people remember Jamie Lange for the heartbreak — and bruises — she caused on the basketball court for Sumner High School.
She was a dominant post player with sharp elbows and a nasty edge to move defenders out of her way. Few other players matched her tenacity. She was a star — and a News Tribune All-Area first-teamer as a senior, averaging 20.8 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game.
But today, Lange is a different player. She smiles a lot in coming off the bench for the seventh-ranked Puget Sound Loggers. She giggles at the free-throw line after coach Loree Payne sends a few encouraging words her way.
“I am enjoying myself,” the 6-foot freshman said.
It’s because nearly two years ago, basketball was taken away from her. She suffered a devastating season-ending right knee injury in the 2015 Class 3A West Central District title game against Wilson.
And she recalls the painful moment well.
“I went in for a layup (at the end of the first quarter), and I had a lot of adrenaline going, so I went up pretty high,” Lange said. “I got pushed a little bit and felt my body go.
“I came down and heard a bad noise.”
Her right knee didn’t hurt. It just didn’t feel right.
She had it taped, and ran up and down the hallway outside the gymnasium. Late in the second quarter, she returned to the bench and told Spartans coach Jordan Moog she was ready to go back into the game.
Lange re-entered during a free throw. She went into the lane to block out for a rebound. The knee buckled.
And her prep career was suddenly over with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
“I remember being in a lot of disbelief,” Lange said. “I did not accept the news until we went up to Seattle for the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).”
It was only four days prior to the Wilson game that she had decided to attend UPS to play soccer — and possibly basketball.
“I really tried to manage getting my hopes up, and my expectations up that she would play basketball for us,” Payne said. “No kid pressured into doing something will be great if that is truly not her choice.”
Last season, Lange was not ready to return for soccer. And she certainly wasn’t thinking that basketball was part of her immediate future.
“I hated basketball,” Lange said. “It did not give me what I was giving it.”
It wasn’t until the final homestand of 2015-16 when Lange attended a game in Memorial Fieldhouse. And something hit her while watching Payne’s players enjoy themselves greatly: She missed the sport.
And last summer, under no pressure, she found Payne in the UPS weight room and asked for shooting workouts.
“My jaw dropped,” Payne said. “I thought this was going to be amazing if it all worked out.”
But first, Lange needed to get through a sports season — and did last fall as the backup goalkeeper to Lauren Thomas, who was a senior. Lange played in one match.
When soccer season was over, Lange was ready to join the basketball team. Payne made sure to ease her back into action.
“I let her body and mind lead the course,” Payne said. “I told her in that first practice, you can watch, or you can hop into drills — whatever you have the confidence to do.”
Lange made her debut Nov. 19 against California Lutheran — 637 days after she last played in a game. She scored one point in two minutes of action.
Gradually, Lange’s role has increased throughout the season. Now, the limited minutes she plays usually are reserved for the game’s biggest moments.
In 10 Northwest Conference games, she has averaged 14.5 minutes per outing. And her statistics have been impactful — 11.8 ppg and 6.9 rpg.
Oh, yeah, she adds another element: cheer.
“I often joke, basketball has become this happy place for me now — and I’ve become a happier human being,” Lange said. “It has reaffirmed my feeling as an athlete. And for coach Payne to trust me in those moments is the best thing she could have done for me.”