Two years ago, there would have been no reason to believe Eliza Normen would be in need of a comeback.
She was atop the women's basketball world, a senior guard at Monarch who was bound for Arizona State. Normen was one of the top female athletes in the state, her stock rising with each multifaceted, box-score-stuffing performance.
But then she was forced to take some time off.
"It definitely was a while," Normen said in a recent phone interview.
She tore her right ACL on Feb. 4, 2011 as Monarch was cruising to a win against Mountain Range. It cut short her high school career a mere two weeks before the postseason.
She still was named to The Denver Post's All-Colorado team and moved on to ASU. Then, in her first game as a Sun Devil, Normen severely tore a left quad muscle. She made a brief attempt at a comeback before the injury forced her to redshirt.
Only now is Normen back on the court on a regular basis.
"It was really tough," Normen said. "Basketball is my passion. I think it made me a better person, but it was also challenging to take a step back and try to learn things from the sideline. But I think I probably got stronger for it."
A redshirt freshman, Normen isn't yet receiving big-time minutes, but has appeared in all 13 games for the Sun Devils (8-5 entering Sunday). She is averaging 1.5 points in 13.8 minutes a game playing as a shooting guard/small forward. Normen had moved to point guard as a senior at Monarch, but is being used on the wing for now.
Most importantly, she's back on the floor.
"It's been a tough couple of years for her, but she's a tough kid and always has that positive attitude," Monarch interim coach Chris Lewis said. "She never gets down in the dumps, and it's great that she's finally getting some good playing time this year."
Lewis, a longtime assistant filling in this season while Gail Hook takes a one-year sabbatical, is thankful for players such as Normen, Rebecca Richmond (Navy), Alexus Johnson (Grambling State) and Emily Wood (Metro State).
Seeing the former Coyotes excelling at the next level makes motivating athletes an easy concept. Many Monarch players still keep tabs on Normen, delighted their former star has recuperated.
Normen keeps in touch with several of her former teammates and is eyeing her return home Jan. 18, when ASU travels to Boulder to take on the Colorado Buffaloes.
"I'm so excited to see my family and friends, and it's awesome that we get a chance to go to Colorado so they get a chance to see me play," Normen said. "It means a lot."
Monarch plays at Fairview that night, which is nearby, but the games might overlap. Lewis is aware the Sun Devils are in town and said: "If there is time left after our game to stop by and say hi, I definitely will."
Normen follows the Coyotes from afar, and spoke highly of Lewis, who she believes will make a significant impact in his season at the helm. She no longer is a Coyote, but hasn't forgotten where she came from. She knows many of her former Monarch teammates will turn out to be lifelong friends.
"We're still close," Normen said. "We text all the time and Facebook is always a great tool to keep in touch. So it's been good."
Follow Paul on Twitter: @PaulWillis21