Jan. 16—Two years ago, the Hatton Hornets hosted Danville in the opening game of the 2021-22 basketball season. Then-freshman Anna Potter was set to play her first varsity game.
"It was her first season on varsity; she was going to be one of our guards," Hatton head coach Erika Little said. "The very first game of the season, she came out hot and hit a few shots playing extremely well."
As three quarters went by, Potter collected six points, but those would be her last of the season.
"They threw me up a lob and I came down, and my knee just collapsed," Potter said, "As soon as I hit the floor, I knew it wasn't good."
Potter had ruptured her ACL in her first varsity minutes, which caused her to miss the rest of basketball season and most of softball season.
"It was really hard because that was also my sister's senior year, so I didn't get to play softball with her and I had to watch my team succeed and fail, and I couldn't do anything about it," she said.
At the time, Little had not yet been named the Hornets girls head basketball coach, but she had already been involved with the team for three years. She said she's seen Potter grow up, that when she ruptured her ACL, their relationship blossomed.
"When I tore my ACL, that's who I talked to and sat by every game. I would help her keep stats and stuff," Potter said. "When she became the head coach, all that just rolled over. We kept that same loyalty and commitment towards each other. Ever since then, we've had this connection that's been unbreakable."
Now that Potter is back and Little is head coach, Potter has risen into a position to lead.
"She is definitely a leader. She has all the qualities in a leader you want as a coach," Little said. "She pushes her teammates and expects the best out of them. She holds them accountable, but she holds herself accountable even more so. I think she represents our program extremely well on and off the court."
It comes at a perfect time, too. The Lady Hornets have been in search of a leader since their last class graduated.
"This year she's really had to take on that leadership role because we lost seven seniors last year," Little said. "So she went from being one of the youngest ones to where now she's taken this leadership position as seriously as possible, and she's done an excellent job at it."
Little said she not only leads the team off the court but on it as well.
"She's our point guard and team captain. She's one of my best defensive players," Little said. "She's one of the only players I have that doesn't leave the court unless she has to because I need her in the game; we need her in the game."
But that's not what strikes Little as impressive about Potter.
"I think it's amazing how she reaches out to some of these younger kids in the program. She really tries to help them. One of our other point guards is in the seventh grade, and she'll come up here and shoot with her, just trying to be a mentor to these kids," Little said. "It says enough that when after the game I'll go around and tell them who really stood out in that game, some of the younger kids will say her just because they look up to her and respect her."
In only 11th grade, Potter has already committed to playing collegiate softball at UNA. She said sports have always been her escape, which made coming back from her injury that much harder.
"It's been a struggle because I was very timid with it; I was scared of it. It's really made me see things differently. When people get hurt, it bothers me," Potter said. "If someone goes down, it really scares me because I don't want them to feel how I felt in that moment because it was really hard for me emotionally, mentally and physically. It was a lot all at once."
She said that her father supported her through her injury like he has her whole life, "During my injury, he was telling me, 'If I could take it away from you I would,'" Potter said.
"My dad really pushed me when I was younger. We would always stay after practice and shoot extra and do dribbling drills," She said. "He's just always been the one to push me, take me to practice, he shot with me. He's just been the person who's always been there for me."
Little said she has been impressed with Potter and her work ethic, and she's proud of her player no matter where she goes on to play.
"This has been the year she's really stepped up and become everything I knew she would be when she was younger," Little said. "She's come so far, and I'm excited to see how far she goes."