WINSTON-SALEM - During a timeout, North Carolina A&T guard Amber Calvin walked into the A&T huddle during the Aggies quarterfinals of the MEAC Women's Basketball Tournament game on March 8 against Coppin State and began to slump.
Eventually, her body began to fold like a chair as her teammates tried to prevent her from collapsing to the floor. Calvin could barely support her weight. It was only minutes earlier when the redshirt sophomore guard out of Fayetteville, N.C., moved to the point guard position and ignited a comeback that saw the Aggies go from 23 points down with 16 minutes remaining to five points ahead with 3:09 to play.
During the Aggies incredible and frantic comeback during that 13-minute span, Calvin scored 15 of her game-high 26 points. Therefore, to see Calvin rushed to take a seat on the Aggies bench sent concern, fear and doubt throughout the Aggies fan base assembled at Lawrence Joel Coliseum.
But to think Amber Calvin would just sit the rest of the game is to not know Amber Calvin. Calvin, who had visible scratches on her nose after the hard-fought contest, told the media during the postgame press conference her issue during the game was fatigue.
Fatigue? Is that all? Considering what Calvin has been through before the age of 21, it is easy to understand why after sitting out one play, she asked to come back into the game. Calvin has torn her ACL three times - once in her left knee and twice in her right. The first time she injured her knee was her junior season at South View High School.
The injury in her left knee frightened some of the higher level Division I schools. A&T never stopped recruiting, something she still appreciates to this day. Calvin's second knee injury occurred in her right knee during the Aggies magical run through the WNIT in 2010. As a freshman, Calvin drove toward the basket against the University of Miami, only to feel her knee buckle. The Aggies' season came to an end that day as the Hurricanes advanced in the tournament.
The timing of Calvin's injury was the sunshine in an otherwise gloomy situation. But as Calvin rehabbed and prepared for the 2010-11 season, she re-injured her right knee, forcing her to miss the season.
"It's been real tough, but when you love something so much, you keep going back to it," said Calvin about her love affair with basketball. "I'm just really thankful to be able to play a complete, full season without too many complications. I'm happy about the way things turned out."
Calvin, who averaged 13.6 points and 4.0 assists per game, did miss two games this season. She didn't play in the Aggies game at Georgia Tech on Dec. 29 and at Howard on Jan. 14. In both instances, Calvin sat out to rest her knees.
"With Amber, she's going to give it to you," said Bibbs. "She doesn't fear anything or she doesn't fear anyone. It's awesome that's she's playing. Usually a player with three ACL surgeries, they don't play anymore. But this kid fights. She's in there every day, she's practicing and she's doing it. She's a great player. She didn't give up. That's what I admire about her as a player."
Bibbs also admires the great rehabilitation work that was done for Calvin during the summer. Both women believe Calvin needed to have outstanding rehab sessions over the summer in order to further her career. She did. The rehab was so good, it alleviated a lot of fears Calvin had about being able to play the game she loves.
"After the second one on my right knee, I did get down," said Calvin, who still has two years of eligibility remaining. "They basically made it seem like I wouldn't be able to play anymore. I wasn't going to take no for an answer."
Calvin, who describes herself as a comedian, suddenly got serious about her future. "They were going to fix me up, and I was going to try again," said Calvin, who also took her academics seriously as she had a better than 3.0 grade point average during the fall semester.
There were doubts as to whether Calvin could return to the form that helped the Aggies advance two rounds in the WNIT. On occasions, there are still worries about how Calvin's knees are faring under the rigors of a 30-plus game schedule. With her grades improving and the Aggies young team maturing, Calvin can't worry about a potential fourth knee injury, however. She can't cope as a player with that mentality.
"My knees don't even cross my mind when I'm playing," said Calvin. "I've been told it's more mental than physical. If you think you're going to get hurt, you're going to get hurt."
There are times when Calvin is a little hesitant on the floor, she admits. Once her adrenaline gets going, she feels like she can perform like the Amber Calvin pre knee surgeries. She is so appreciative to be playing again, a little fatigue and a couple of scratches on the nose, is not going to keep Calvin from performing.