After a memorable junior year, Tasha Bradley of Muir High in Pasadena had reason for looking forward to this basketball season.
The 6-2, 170-pound forward had been named to preseason high school All-American teams and was being recruited by top NCAA Division I schools.
Muir had key players returning and was expected to be one of the best in the CIF Southern Section.
That was before the season.
That was also before Bradley's best friend, All-Pacific League point guard Angie Grant, was injured in an auto accident in October.
Grant, the team's leader on and off the court, has not returned to school after suffering a broken knee and rotated hip, and Bradley said it resulted in a major adjustment for her and the team.
"When I found out she was hurt I thought, 'Now we're not going to make it,' " Bradley said. "She was so important to the team. But I would visit her in the hospital and she told me to just have positive thoughts, and that's what I tried to do."
Bradley admits it was not that easy.
"I didn't have to worry about getting the ball but I had to work a little harder," she said.
Bradley was injured in the second game of the season in early December.
Said Coach Paul Bodenshot: "The team felt downcast when they had lost Angie in the preseason and then when they lost Tasha it was like, 'Oh no. We're not going to be that good. It was a difficult time.' "
Bradley, who missed two weeks of play, said it was difficult to get back to basketball.
"It was a mental thing," she said. "I was scared to do a lot of things but finally decided that I wasn't going to let it bother me."
And Bradley has had to adjust to a new coach. Bodenshot replaced Archie Newton, who had coached Bradley for first three years but resigned after being named vice principal at Muir.
Bradley says the adjustment has been anything but easy.
"The last three years I was used to doing what Mr. Newton was telling me, and now Mr. Bodenshot has his own way of doing things that I have had to get used to," she said.
"It's been hard for the whole team, but we're working on it. We're sticking together and things are starting to come around. I think we've accomplished a lot."
Bodenshot agreed that his relationship with Bradley has not always been smooth.
"It's been a difficult adjustment for both of us," he said. "She's obviously a very talented ballplayer but she has to realize that she has her weaknesses and she has to work on them. She was coached for three years by a different coach, so her fundamentals were established. When you get a new coach it's always hardest on the seniors."
With the loss of Grant, Bodenshot said Bradley has been pressed into more of a leadership role.
"I would say she has a great deal of pressure put on her," Bodenshot said. "With a new coach, I relied on her to be a go-between for me and the players.
"The two of them were best of friends and the students say she (Grant) was the leader last year. So that put pressure on her to be the leader."
It is a role that Bradley is finally getting accustomed to. "We've talked about that and they (the team) feel they want me to be a leader," she said. "So I try to help them."
With a new coach and added responsibility, it is understandable why Bradley's statistics have dropped from last season. A two-time All-CIF selection, Bradley averaged 24.7 points, 20.3 rebounds and 7.5 assists as a junior. This season she has averaged 17 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3 assists.
But Bodenshot said she is still having a good season for the Mustangs, who are 12-5 for the season. He added that the statistical drop has more to do with the amount of playing time she has received.
"If you look at her statistics, it doesn't tell the story because she doesn't play more than half a game most of the time," he said. "I could have her in there the whole game and she would be getting more points and rebounds.
"The public looks at it as she's scoring less, so she's having a down year. What the public has to realize is I'm only playing her two quarters, maybe three."
Bradley acknowledges that she has not been as productive as last year and said it might be related to her decision to sign with Nevada-Las Vegas during the letter-of-intent period in November.
"I feel like I had a better year last year," she said. "I guess it's because I signed and I'm slacking off a bit. But I know I need to get better and I've talked to the team about it. I have to work a little harder and not think about anything but basketball."
Not that Bradley has any second thoughts about signing early.
"With all the recruiting, I wasn't able to do my (school) work and concentrate on basketball. So I just sat down and thought about it and decided which school I should go to."
It was not a difficult decision for Bradley, who was also recruited intensely by Pacific 10 schools USC and Oregon State.
Bradley said it did not hurt that Nevada-Las Vegas has three former Muir players on its basketball teams. Stacey Augmon starts for the men and twins Pauline and Geannine Jordan, who were teammates of Bradley in her freshman and sophomore years at Muir, start for the women.
"When I was up there (on a recruiting visit) I talked to Stacey, and he's like a brother to me and he told me just to follow my feelings because it's my decision, and the twins said almost the same thing," she said.
Despite the setbacks and problems Bradley has had this season, Bodenshot is enamored with her skills as a player.
"She has an awful lot of ability," he said. "I'm not going to try to compare her with the Jordans or Cherie Nelson (of USC, whom he coached at Marshall Fundamental). I don't try to compare them because they're all different players with different attributes."
Bradley realizes that she has a lot of work ahead to reach the level of the Jordans or Nelson.
"I feel strongest as a rebounder and I think I need to work on my shot a little more," she said. "I'm going to shoot a little more there (Las Vegas) because opponents probably will collapse on the big people."
Bodenshot thinks Bradley can be an outstanding college player. "She's obviously going to be missed next year," he said.