From heartbreak to dreams come true: Blankenship 'Wills' his way to Rupp

Mar. 19—"I was coming off my best game of the season, and felt I had a lot of things going for me. I was really excited and then I hurt my leg late in the regular season, one of the first big injuries in my career. It hurt my heart honestly more than my leg."

Will Blankenship was candid about the late season ACL tear that prevented him from playing at Rupp Arena for the 12th Region champion Maroons last season. Blankenship was the sixth man for that group, as he averaged about seven points per game, and was forced to watch from the tunnel as his team took the court at Rupp, a dream for any hooper in the Commonwealth. Originally told that his injury would take 8-12 months to come back from, Blankenship was determined to return to the court in time for his senior season.

"I went up to Cincinnati to get the surgery as they told me it was only going to be about a six month recovery timeframe. It was a lot of fast-paced rehab and it was very hard on me, but I just knew all the hard work I put in my rehabilitation would pay off in the end," he explained.

Return to the court he did as well, sporting a knee brace on his injured leg, as tons of pundits were discounting the Maroons heading into the season. It didn't help matters any when sophomore guard Carson Fraley was injured right before the start of the season, with Blankenship now expected to step up and slide into the role of a leading scorer. The senior did more than that however, becoming the leader of this group that no one expected much from.

"We knew that we had some good players and we knew we had what it took to win, we just had to put all the pieces together. It was a long journey and we caught fire at just the right time," he stated.

Blankenship played some of his best basketball towards the end of the season while leading the Maroons with 15.2 points per game, and then came a fourth match against Somerset in the regional title game. In what was a dominating victory for Pulaski, the dream was close to becoming realized for Will, even if he didn't think his team was going to win until the final seconds.

"I kept thinking we were going to find some way to blow it. We were unrelenting and we just played good throughout the entire game. It was such a good feeling and it's still hitting me in waves that I'm actually getting to play at Rupp. When those last seconds were ticking off the clock, I just hugged my dad and was just happy," he elucidated.

Going into his second-chance at a dream, his opportunity to lead the Maroons out onto the court at Rupp Arena, Blankenship has the same mindset that he's had the entire season.

"Nobody thought we were going to be any good, nobody thought we were going to be here. We kept shocking people and I think that's what we are going to do in state as well," he described.

Not only is the senior getting a chance to accomplish a dream, he is also preparing to coach an AAU basketball team over the summer featuring a few of the younger players on the Maroon boys' basketball team. It is truly a Disney-like story for Blankenship, who will look to 'Will' his team to a first round victory over Trinity (Louisville) on Thursday evening at 6 p.m.

Jacob Pratt is the Sports Editor of the Commonwealth Journal and can be reached at