NCAA WOMENS BASKETBALL:  DEC 07 UNC Greensboro at Duke

Hononegah grad Brandi Fier, left, handles the ball for UNC Greensboro in a game against Duke.

A criminally underrated, tough-as-nails point guard with Division I dreams can’t get a look out of high school, despite numerous accolades.

She goes to junior college and works her tail off there until the phone call finally comes: She’s received a scholarship offer from UNC-Greensboro.

She arrives on campus with little expectation for herself and even fewer from teammates and coaches. She keeps her head down, and does what she’s always done: She works.

In her third game as a Division 1 player, she answers any question about whether she belongs, scoring 18 points and handing out nine assists as UNCG beats Coastal Carolina.

By this time, she knows exactly who she is: She’s Brandi Fier, former Hononegah standout, and she belongs right where she always wanted to be: Playing Division I basketball.

Before long, she’s the starting point guard. She is, quite literally, living the dream, playing with house money and taking down pot after pot.

Fast forward to the summer before her senior year. All signs point to her being the full-time starting point guard, the role she’s played since she first laced up the sneaks in third grade.

During individual workouts, she collapses in a heap. On her way down, she hears a pop. She’s been around sports. She knows what that means.

The ACL is torn. Instead of dropping dimes on the floor under the bright lights, she’s pickup up dumbells in the weight room, working her way back to form.

Her team is playing, and she’s on the bench. She’s never been injured before, and she’s not sure what to do. She only knows this: She’s disengaged, doesn’t feel a part of what’s going on, and she never wants this feeling again.

Fast forward again, and this time we’re in Italy. She had attacked the rehab like she attacked a 3-on-2 fastbreak, which is to say: The opponent had no chance.

She’s feeling her way back as her squad takes advantage of a true D1 perk: A trip overseas to prepare for the coming season while enjoying the scenery.

She’s back on the floor, in her familiar starting spot, and she’s making plays and feeling good. Of course, the knee isn’t exactly 100 percent, and she’s not all the way back. But she’s fist-bumping teammates, working up a sweat and running the floor. At long last, she’s back, doing what she loves.

It’s the fall now, and the first day of practice is upon her. It doesn’t take long before she takes an elbow to her nose, breaking it. She ices it, and the next day in practice, she reaches up to feel her nose and can shift it back and forth.

Not great. She goes to the doc, who tells her that she’s got to have surgery within two weeks, unless she wants a crooked nose the rest of her life.

Surgery is scheduled.

She keeps practicing, this time with a mask that would make Rip Hamilton proud.

It’s the day before her scheduled surgery now, and she’s working against the scout team, full of strong and athletic men from around campus, designed so that the real games seem a breeze by comparison.

She’s cutting off one of those guys who is trying to use a screen to get past her. She goes down. Before she even hits the floor, she knows.

She tore it. Again. Many expletives go through her mind, but none escape her lips. She’s crying too hard.

The doc gives her some hope, says it feels to him like it might still be attached. Maybe it’s just an MCL. Take a month off, and you’re good to go.

She has the nose surgery, then heads to the gym. She can’t practice, but she might as well be there.

The trainer calls her into her office, and she knows it’s over when she tells her to sit down.

The ligament is 80 percent torn. She’s crying, of course, but she can’t even blow her nose. Doctor’s orders, you understand. She is, by definition, at this point a hot mess, with the emphasis on mess.

She sees the doc, who tells her she can play with a brace, but he advises against it. He gives her a 20 percent chance to play effectively. Her junior college coach tells her to have the surgery and petition for another redshirt season from the NCAA, a step that wouldn’t be unprecedented, but considered a longshot.

No way, she says. She can’t sit out another year. She’s drained, mentally and physically. No more rehab. She’s got to give it a shot.

After a month of rehab, she tries on the brace. It’s bulky, she hates it and her knee keeps giving out. This isn’t going to work.

She’s not about to give up. She can still practice, so she does. She’s on the scout team now, with the boys. She’s invested, she’s part of the team. It’s not how she wanted to end her career, but she’s always made the best of things.

She gets in a few games. She even scores on a fastbreak against Concord in January, her teammates going crazy on the bench. She finds a new way to make the game that she has always loved, love her right back.

Her squad is one of the lucky few to finish their season completely. They make a heck of a run at the Southern Conference tournament before falling in a tight battle to top-seeded Samford.

Just like that, her career is over. She was scheduled for surgery, so she can remain an active adult, competing in whichever way she chooses, but COVID-19 took care of that.

Like so many things in the country now, her surgery to repair her twice-torn ACL is TBA.

Before you get to feeling sorry for Brandi, consider this: She set a goal when she was a little kid. She worked her entire childhood and adolescence to make it happen.

When it came true, the story could’ve ended. She could have been a scholarship cheerleader at the end of the bench, creating handshakes and waving towels. Instead, she was a starter and a leader. She defied the odds, and made it happen.

After all, she’s done it all her life. She’s Brandi Fier.