BRADENTON - Minutes before his Bradenton Christian Panthers tipped off against their fiercest rival, Kevin Yoder sported a limp and a smile.
Generally, gimpy legs and gleeful grins go together as well as baking powder and windshield-washer fluid. For a while, Yoder felt the same way.
The senior would rather be wearing a jersey cut off at the sleeves and a pair of shorts rather than the black dress pants, sweater, button-down shirt and tie he wore during BCS' game with Sarasota Christian last week. He'd rather be zipping down the court instead of sitting courtside. He'd rather be brandishing a basketball than a clipboard.
But hey, things happen. And Yoder is sure something good will come out of the injury that has cost the effervescent point guard his final scholastic season.
"It's just something I can't do anything about it. It's kind of out of my hands, so why stew about it?" Yoder said. "It'll be funny to see, the next two or three years, why this happened. Because something good is going to come out of this."
Plenty of good has come out of Yoder, an Ohio transplant who is BCS' all-time leader in assists and the point guard who helped the Panthers reach the Class 1A final four last year. But his plans for a fitting career capper came to a halt in early December when he hurt his right knee during a game.
Yoder remembers being able to walk and apply pressure to the knee and was sure all he had done was twist it. That's when doctors told him he had torn a ligament.
"I was shocked. I just stood there with my mouth open," Yoder said. "I asked (the doctor) how long it would be. He said about five months, and I almost cried. . . . It was pretty rough."
The Bradenton resident underwent surgery in late December, putting a crimp in Christmas - "I was out of it," Yoder said - and leaving him bed-ridden. Luckily, he had friends to lift his spirits.
"The whole team basically was there before the surgery, after the surgery," Yoder said. "My friends got me a PSP (a PlayStation Portable) because I had to sit on my bed all the time, so it kind of gave me something to do."
Having come to grips with the fact he can't play, Yoder has become another assistant coach. He's at every game and practice working the Panthers' young crop of players, including eighth-grader Daniel Magley.
Magley, whose father, David, is BCS' head coach and whose brother, D.J., is its starting forward/center, was called up to the varsity squad during the holidays. So one night after a road game, Daniel decided to get to work. Yoder decided to work with him.
"My kid . . . shot from 10 o'clock until midnight," David Magley said. "And (Yoder) rebounded for Daniel and had Daniel working, and really, really got Daniel into his confidence. And it was key, it was pivotal. And then Daniel had a great two weeks."
Yoder is happy about what's in front of him. The Panthers, buoyed by a young corps of reserves, are in the hunt for the district's No. 1 seed, and Dordt College, a Division II school in Iowa, has made him an offer.
He may not be playing. But he's still contributing.
"He's our biggest cheerleader. He's always around, trying to lift our spirits up," BCS junior forward Cole Hudson said. "Before games, you usually couldn't crack a smile out of him or anything. Now, he's so into it, he's become our biggest fan."