Shannon Bogues is still examining the wrist that he hasn’t seen in seven weeks.
The skin is dry — a nurse joked that he can borrow lotion from her purse — and he has a cut that even he has no idea as to how it got there, but otherwise, it looks perfectly fine.
But to Bogues, it doesn’t feel fine — it feels sore.
“It just feels like it’s about to pop,” he tells Dr. Bryan Lane as he sits on an examination table.
“It’s just stiff because it hasn’t moved,” Lane says. “Look at the difference in your arms.”
Lane places Bogues’ hands together in front of him so he can see that his left forearm is now noticeably bigger than his right.
“Oh,” Shannon says, “I really didn’t even notice that.”
“You haven’t used these muscles,” Lane explains, “because those are the muscles that move your wrist and your hand. Well, you haven’t used them in what, six weeks now?
“Seven,” Bogues’ mother, Shantell, says.
Shannon — who will sign to play college
basketball this month — had hoped to have his cast off three weeks earlier, just in time for a magical return to the court in the Class 6A regional quarterfinals.
But there was no storybook ending to his final season at Ellison, one that just seven weeks earlier was filled with promise for the first-place Eagles.
Nearly every team in every sport has that moment where its star player takes a spill and stays down, and its season momentarily hangs in the balance.
Ellison head coach Alberto Jones Jr. had one two years ago when future District MVP Ojai Black went down in a district game against Shoemaker.
Black returned shortly after a trip to the bench.
But what happens when that player doesn’t return?
Seven weeks earlier, Shannon was having a season comparable to Black and the rest of a long list of great Ellison wings, and the Eagles were cruising toward a historic season.
Then it all changed Jan. 30.
There was hope for a Willis Reed-like return in the postseason.
But even that wasn’t to be.
Shannon says he still plays the play over and over in his mind.
What if he had just gone up for a regular shot?
What if he had been ready to return three weeks earlier?
Malik Malone knew the game was getting out of hand.
A hard foul had just left teammate Dajuan Jones crumpled on the floor, and the chippiness between the two oldest rivals in Killeen ISD was starting to boil over.
The foul didn’t even draw a flagrant whistle, incensing the home crowd and causing Malone to approach an official, only to be rebuffed and told to let it go.
“I told him somebody’s going to get hurt,” Malone said.
On the next play, the Eagles’ season, and Bogues’ life, changed in an instant.
It was Jan. 30, and Ellison was hosting Killeen in the fourth quarter of a game it’d go on to win by 15 points.
The Eagles had risen to No. 16 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches rankings and were all alone in first place in District 12-6A.
And it was largely because Shannon -- a senior who played junior varsity as a sophomore and came off the bench as a junior -- was playing like a man possessed.
He already had 20 points against the Kangaroos, his fourth straight game scoring at least 20, and he was coming off the best performance of his high school career — 34 points on 7-of-8 shooting from downtown in an 82-68 win at Copperas Cove.
“We’d always say, ‘the only person that can hold Shannon back is Shannon,’” his father, Shannon Sr., said. “And he finally came out of his shell.”
Now, against Killeen, Shannon was looking for points 21 and 22 after a steal left him alone in the open court with Killeen center Darrius Mosley.
Shannon hadn’t been dunking in games for long — his first came in a spring league game the year before, a moment so joyous that he forgot to get back on defense — but now it was an addiction.
He already had two slams in this game and decided to go for his third as soon as he got the ball.
“I just remember I got the ball and I kind of lost it as I was going up,” Shannon said. “(Mosley) was kind of big, so my body hit his body and I kind of went off balance.”
Shannon landed awkwardly, with his hand under his leg, as he tried to brace himself for the fall.
When Shannon stayed down after the fall, Shannon Sr. wondered out of the stands down to the court.
Shannon had never broken a bone in his body but told his father then that he knew his wrist was broken.
After finally getting up, Shannon went to the bench, then the locker room and then the hospital.
By the time a nurse confirmed his initial suspicion, Shantell estimates more than 20 people — Ellison players and parents, even Jones and his family — were at the hospital awaiting the word.
Shantell says she and Shannon cried briefly after hearing the news, but by the time his teammates arrived he was upbeat and trying, unsuccessfully, to cheer them up.
“We weren’t cheered up,” Malone said. “We were in a bad moment. Because at this point, it’s not just the season, it’s his career.”
But Shannon knew.
It crossed his mind all the time for seven long weeks.
NOT A DIRTY PLAY
It was a dreary day in Waco, but the winter storms that had turned the opening week of the playoffs upside down had subsided long enough for Ellison to face Dallas Skyline in an area-round matchup.
Shannon wasn’t playing, but as had become the norm, he was shooting around with his teammates in pregame.
Shannon crossed left, dribbled between his legs right then behind his back to the left.
You’d never know there was a cast on his right wrist underneath his Ellison warm-up.
That is until Shannon stepped back and braced to launch one of the sweetest shots in 12-6A last season — only instead he launched a semi-awkward attempt with his left hand.
Shannon said he often pondered just playing with only his left hand.
But just as often, he wondered what if the final play of his senior season had gone differently.
“It kind of made me feel like, ‘dang,’” he said. “I could’ve just shot the ball or something.
“Because it felt like I just let the whole team down.”
What Shannon and his mother never questioned, however, was the intent behind the foul that ended his season.
Shantell is an official herself and was refereeing a game the night Shannon got hurt.
When she returned to her car after that game, Shantell said she was bombarded with more than 50 missed calls and text messages.
Many called it a dirty play, but Shantell, still in official mode, vowed to save judgment until she saw the film.
But that wasn’t good enough for most.
“Them text messages and phone calls ... oh man,” Shantell recalls, sitting back in her chair. “I even posted on Facebook that it wasn’t a dirty play. It was a regular basketball (play). It wasn’t even really a hard bump, it just looks hard because he’s 150 pounds bigger, probably, than Shannon.”
Shannon said he even received calls from Killeen players, many of whom he has played with since fourth grade, shortly after his diagnosis.
In fact, Shannon and his parents heard from everyone, from random students to strangers in the grocery store, wishing him a speedy recovery.
But that didn’t make it any easier to watch -- watch at practice, watch at games, watch on college visits.
Silently, however, Shannon was planning his return.
If only Ellison could make it to the regional quarterfinals.
One of the first seniors out of the Waco High home locker room, Shannon emerged in a red Jordan hoody and black sweats with his head down and the hood pulled over his head.
Shannon hadn’t played a minute since Jan. 30, but his eyes were glassy as if he had played all 32 against Skyline.
The Raiders had ended the Eagles’ district championship season with a 46-41 victory and, with it, any chance of Shannon returning.
Even the idea of Shannon returning from an injury that serious in that short a period of time sounds ludicrous.
But it wasn’t to Shannon.
At home, he drank milk by the gallon and often proclaimed, ‘I can’t wait to get back,’ Shantell said.
Prior to the Skyline game, Shantell even tried to get his Tuesday appointment moved up to Monday in hopes that he might be cleared in time for a potential regional quarterfinal game.
“They were going to try to work us in there,” Shantell said. “And then that’s when he came back and they were like he needs to have it on for two more weeks.”
On top of that, Ellison never reached the regional quarterfinals.
And that is why Shannon had tears in his eyes walking out of that Waco High gym.
“It hurt me the most,” Shannon said. “I know it hurt the seniors, but it really hurt me because I couldn’t play the last game of my high school career.
“At least, I wanted to play one more game, but I couldn’t. And that really hurt me.”
In the following weeks, Shannon was named 12-6A Offensive Player of the Year and All Region II-6A by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
But even with the individual accolades, Shannon says the season still feels incomplete.
“Since we were freshmen, all the seniors now, we were always saying, ‘we’re going to go to state, we’re going to go to state,’” he says. “And then we didn’t get the chance to.”
FOCUSED ON FUTURE
Lane sits in front of a computer that Shannon and Shantell can see from behind him.
With a few clicks, up pops two nearly identical X-ray images of a wrist.
The first one, on the right, has a distinct line where the fracture occurred.
That image is from March 3, the day Shannon thought he’d be getting his cast off to join his teammates in the regional quarterfinals.
The second image, on the left, is from today.
The line is thinner and has a white haze now.
Lane says that haze is the new bone growing in and that it is healing nicely, enough for Shannon to forgo a splint.
“How long do you think it will take for a full recovery?” Shantell asks.
“It’s still going to take about probably another six weeks to be completely well,” Lane says. “But he’ll be completely functional before then.”
“Well,” Shannon says, “at least I got it off.”
Shannon says he will be better than ever when he gets back.
It is a common sentiment — Jones said it also.
Two weeks later, Shannon is dressed out in a T-shirt and basketball shorts during a free period, shooting jumpers — with his right hand now — on the same rim he was going toward on the play that ended his high school career.
Shannon says he has been dunking since he got his cast off, but Jones doesn’t believe him.
“When have you been dunking?” Jones asks dubiously.
“I have,” Shannon retorts. “I’ll dunk right now.”
Standing under a side basket, Shannon takes a power dribble, elevates and flushes it with his right hand.
Moments later Shannon tosses up a pull-up jumper — with his left hand.
The reminder of the injury that cost him the last part of a promising senior season is gone, and Shannon says he is only focused on his future at whatever lucky school he decides to sign with this month.
No longer is he dwelling on what might have been had he tried to lay it up Jan. 30 instead of going for the slam.
But every time Shannon goes left, at which he says he is already considerably better, there will be a reminder.
A reminder of what happens when that ‘what if’ actually happens.
And Shannon knows the answer now.
You just come back better than ever — or at least try.
And that is exactly what Shannon is doing.
One jumper at a time.