For Michaela Jones, there was a lot to like about Northern Colorado, the school she committed to last month to play college basketball.
The Class B all-state basketball player said the coaches offer a lot of knowledge and experience. She liked how close the team was.
There was something else that stood out.
Jones had been battling a condition in both calves where the muscles tightened up. Surgery entered the picture in March following her junior season of basketball at Beatrice, and a recovery period followed.
Among those to offer support were the Northern Colorado coaches.
"The coaches have supported me and encouraged me and believe in me ever since my injury and the recovery part," Jones said after she committed to the NCAA Division I Bears.
Surgery sidelined Jones for nearly three months. She was playing by the end of June, but the time away from the court created some rust.
"It was tough to come back and play again, just tough Division I competition," Jones said of the club season. "There was times when my legs hurt and it takes time for that to come back, so that was difficult. But I'm glad I at least gave it a whirl."
But now …
"I'm doing really good now," Jones said. "The progress I've made since the summer is incredible. I can work out hard and do things and not be, 'OK, my gosh, legs are just killing me.' It's been so nice."
Jones, who has battled other injuries before, was limited in how much she could play in games because of the calf condition — sometimes only four to six minutes at time. That didn't stop her from averaging 18.8 points and 11.3 rebounds per game and earning Super-State second-team honors.
Because of the leg condition, Jones didn't run track her sophomore and junior seasons. A standout volleyball player, the pain was too much playing from the outside hitter position, so Jones focused on basketball with high hopes of playing Division I.
Basketball practice will start next month, but Jones isn't feeling limited at all. In fact, she plans to run track in the spring.
"It just really makes me thankful that I'm going to be healthy because there are so many people in this world that are in a hospital that might never walk again," Jones said. "There are so many people that are in unlucky situations, and I'm just thankful that mine was able to be fixed and that I am able to play again. It really opened my eyes just even more."
Jones' goal: help Beatrice get to state. But her vision is bigger than that. She wants to help the team deliver Beatrice its first girls state basketball title.
It would certainly create a good feeling for Jones. Another one came last month when Jones told the Northern Colorado coaches in person that she was coming to Greeley.
The coaches jumped out of their chairs. There was screaming.
"You know you picked the right place when the coaches have tears in their eyes," Jones said. "That was so neat. The hugs and the joy. It was incredible."