Unfortunately, ACL injuries have become a common injury in sports, even with the increased training and preventative care. Most athletes who suffer a knee injury miss a substantial amount of their respective season, and may be lost for the year entirely.
Parkview’s Autry Acord is not most athletes. The Viking senior standout recently did the unthinkable when he returned just three weeks after tearing the ACL in his left knee and setting a school record for points in a game when he dropped 46 in a 73-66 win over Ozark on Jan. 6.
“I just couldn’t miss,” said Acord, who finished 11-of-12 from the field and hit 17 of his 20 free throws. “It was at Parkview and I think I only missed like one shot that whole night. Everything I threw up pretty much went in. It was crazy.”
Coming off a 1st-Team All-Ozark Conference season a year ago, Acord and Parkview entered this season with high expectations. The Vikings faced a daunting pre-conference schedule that included the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Classic in early December, the Neosho Holiday Tournament, and the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions last weekend.
Despite the stiff competition, Acord got off to a blistering start to his final season in a Viking uniform, as he scored 26 points in a season-opening loss to perennial Arkansas state powerhouse Fayetteville, before scoring 68 points (22.7 ppg) in the three-day MBCA Hall of Fame Classic. Acord dropped 20 on Willard in a 46-31 win over the Tigers on Dec. 9
Parkview traveled to Republic on Dec. 16 for a match-up against the two-time defending Class 4 state champions. The Vikings stood at 2-3 on the young season and were looking to get to .500 prior to Christmas. Parkview led 23-15 at halftime over the Tigers and looked to stretch the lead in the third quarter. A teammate kicked the ball out to Acord, who drove to the rim. A Republic player had been on the ground, though, and as Acord descended from a lay-up attempt, his foot landed on the defender and his knee “just snapped out.”
“I knew something was wrong immediately,” said Acord. “I didn’t know it was my ACL, so I just kept trying to play on it. I knew it was something serious whenever I was trying to make a cut to get the ball and it just snapped out again. Then I couldn’t do anything else and I had to leave the game.”
Acord had an MRI, which revealed that he had “shredded” his left ACL. His Parkview career had seemingly come to a cruel and premature end. However, in an ironic twist, Acord had torn the ligament so severely that the doctor did not believe that he could cause any more damage to the ligament.
“The doctor told me that I had completely shredded it,” said Acord. “He said that I couldn’t really do any more damage to my ACL. If I wanted to play, I would have to wear a brace, so I ordered a brace. The doctor advised me against playing on it, just because it would be more wear and tear and be more for the surgery.”
Acord sat out the Vikings’ next game, a 50-39 loss to state-ranked McCluer North at the Route 66 Shootout at Waynesville on Dec. 19. Parkview then got 10 days off for Christmas before playing in the Neosho Holiday Tournament Dec. 29-31. In the meantime, Acord showed his doctor tape of him making cuts and other things he was able to do on his injured knee. Acord’s doctor, who said that usually people are not even able to walk with a similar injury, reiterated that he did not believe Acord could damage the knee any further. He was cleared to return to the court.
Acord also consulted with his surgeon, who also said he could play on it if he wanted to, but to schedule a surgery as soon as he was done playing. It was an easy decision for the senior.
“That was the main reason that I decided to keep playing, because I was a senior,” said Acord. “If I was a junior, I would have sat out and tried to recover for next year. But since I’m a senior and this is my last time around, I just tried to stick it out and play through it.”
Acord missed the first game of the Neosho tourney, a win over West Memphis (Ark.), before scoring 35 points in a 71-66 overtime win over Memphis (Tenn.) Sheffield on Dec. 30. Just in case the magnitude of the previous sentence did not register, Acord scored 35 points in his first game back from shredding his ACL!
Acord added 13 points the following night in a loss to St. Joseph’s Lafayette. He then got a week to rest his ailing knee, which he admitted was “killing” him in the Lafayette game.
Parkview next took the court on Jan. 6 at home against Ozark, which was fresh off a Blue & Gold Tournament Gold Division championship. Acord was on fire from the start, and hit 11-of-12 shots from the field and 17-of-20 free throws in scoring 46 points, which is the most points ever scored in a game in the storied history of the Parkview program. The total eclipsed the previous best of 44 points, set by former star Erik Durham on Jan. 15, 2013.
Unfortunately, Acord hurt the knee again in the Ozark game celebrating one of his many made shots. He sat out the Vikings’ 64-47 win over Camdenton on Jan. 9 in the Ozark Conference opener. Acord had one main goal in mind: play in the prestigious Bass Pro Tournament of Champions Jan. 15-17.
Parkview would open the TOC against Paul VI out of Fairfax, Vir., a team which had won the 2013 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions and which entered this season ranked nationally by multiple media outlets. The Panthers featured multiple Division I recruits, including Syracuse commit Franklin Howard.
Acord started for the Vikings and played his heart out against the smothering Panther pressure. Parkview lost the game 65-34 to Paul VI. Acord finished with just four points (20 points under his average), but will cherish the experience forever.
“It’s a huge deal,” said Acord of playing in the Tournament of Champions. “It was one of the major factors in me playing, too, because this is my only chance to play in this. My brother (Taylor, a 2012 Parkview graduate) got to play in it when he was a junior, so I knew it would be fun just to experience what he got to do.”
“He’s just playing on pure guts,” said Parkview head coach Bill Brown of Acord following the TOC opener. “Here I am getting upset with him because he’s turning the ball over, but he really shouldn’t be playing. It’s just one of those things. It’s unbelievable and it’s a huge success story.”
Acord sat out the Vikings’ second TOC game, a loss to Chino Hills (Cal.), before returning to score four points in a loss to Waynesville on Saturday. In addition to being game-to-game, Acord has had to adjust to his regular skill set being diminished due to the injury.
“It’s game to game with him,” said Brown. “He’s going to sit and visit with the doctor (tomorrow) and they’re going to reevaluate it and see what he can do. His quickness and his lateral movement is just not there at all. Normally, he would not have had an issue getting the ball down the court against these kids. They (Paul VI) are very talented, but I would not even flinch to give him the ball and tell him get down the floor. He can’t cut and push and it’s affecting him a lot.”
“I’m slower,” said Acord. “I can’t make cuts as fast. Whenever I’m trying to dribble and stuff, I can’t do spin moves, jukes and stuff like that as good as I could before. I have to take an extra step to get to the place I need to go.”
Each game Acord has played since the injury has been more about his mental toughness than any physical skills, though. The pain at times can be unbearable. “It’s mostly mental,” he said. “It’s just pain tolerance and trying to push through it. If I’m going to play, then I’m going to push my body as hard as I can. At the beginning of the game, (my pain) is at a 5 probably. After halftime, it’s probably like a 9. At halftime, I’m sitting down listening to Coach and my knee gets a little stiff. I go back out there and go through my drills to get loosened back up and it’s just hurting.”
“He’s the second Acord kid I’ve had and they both were just tremendous players and competitors,” said Brown, who has coached at Parkview since 2002. “I just hate it for any senior that goes through this. I’m just glad that he at least got to experience the Tournament of Champions.”
Acord will learn tomorrow whether or not his Parkview career will continue, or whether he has played his last game for the Vikings. Acord, who hopes to play collegiately next year and is looking at a handful of schools, will lace ‘em up without hesitation if given the green light. Regardless, Acord has left his mark on the Parkview program, certainly in the record book, but also with his relentless mental toughness, determination and courage.