LACEY TWP. - Lacey senior Carl Swensen did not enter high school with an expressed goal of scoring 1,000 points in his career but he hoped to have the kind of career that resulted in achievements along those lines.

Two years ago, Swensen's objective shifted dramatically: after a gruesome leg injury, he just hoped he could play basketball again.

Swensen already made a remarkable comeback last season as a junior and on Tuesday evening on his home floor, he capped his comeback story with his 1,000th career point in Lacey's 75-57 loss to Delsea in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group III Tournament.

Lacey senior Carl Swensen celebrates his 1,000th career point with his family and coaches. (Photo by Matt Manley)

During a football game in the fall of his sophomore year, Swensen suffered a horrific injury to his right leg. Both the tibia and fibula snapped and, according to Swensen, there was concern among the doctors who came to his aid that he might lose the lower part of his leg below the knee.

Needless to say, returning to the field or the court was not something any of Swensen's doctors or family members were seriously considering during the immediate aftermath of the injury but as soon as the road to recovery began, Swensen himself set his sights on rekindling a once-promising basketball career.

"I didn't know if I was going to lose the leg and then even after surgery was successful, the doctor said I might not be able to walk correctly again," Swensen said. "I said no to that and I worked hard, I rehabbed for the next year or so. Just to be able to play at a high level again, it means a lot. A thousand points is just a bonus."

During his freshman year, Swensen got a small helping of varsity playing time and was hoping to make a significant impact as a sophomore before the injury wiped out his entire second season. Instead, Swensen's competition was recovery and building up enough strength in his injured leg to once again compete at the varsity level in basketball.

In the year-plus of rehabilitation, Swensen made a remarkable recovery and suddenly basketball was a possibility once again. Even Swensen, however, couldn't have totally expected the results that followed.

Lacey senior Carl Swensen. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

In his first year back on the court as a junior, Swensen won a starting spot on a relatively young Lacey squad and took off. He played in 25 games and racked up 523 points - good for the fifth-best per-game averaged in the entire Shore Conference at 20.9.

The breakout season put Swensen within shouting distance of 1,000 career points heading into his senior season. The path to the milestone this past year still wasn't all smooth - Swensen dealt with an ankle injury during the middle of the season that cost him a game-and-a-half, not to mention a schedule full of defenses that were intent on stopping him now that he is a proven scorer.

Swensen also embraced the role of point guard on a Lacey team that had higher aspirations than in past years. After five straight losing seasons, the Lions crossed over to the other side of the .500 mark this year with a 13-12 record.

In the end, Swensen made it to the milestone by averaging 19.5 points in 24 games this season, capped off by 22 points on Tuesday. He entered the game three points shy of 1,000 and hit the magic number on a free throw with 4:44 left to go in the first quarter.

"It was only three points so it wasn't too much to think about," Swensen said. "I knew I was going to get it so I just went out and played, especially in a state tournament game. To get it out of the way was good."

At one point on Tuesday, Lacey was tied, 12-12, with Delsea in the middle of the first quarter after Swensen tracked down a pass ahead of the field and threw down a one-handed slam. Watching the 6-foot-1 guard take off for a dunk - which he has done plenty in his senior season - is impressive enough given his unassuming stature and even more remarkable considering his doctor was unsure if he would ever be able to walk correctly again.

"I was always pretty bouncy but when I broke my leg, it took a while to get that bounce back, especially my speed" Swensen said. "Last year, my leg got hit a couple times and my bounce wasn't there by the end of the year, so had to really work hard this offseason to get it stronger. The bounce was more consistent and I could play like seven games. That got my leg ready for this season too."

Lacey's season ended at the hands of Delsea Tuesday, with the Crusaders - the defending South Group III champions - turning that 12-12 tie into a 32-16 lead by the early stages of the second quarter behind a 20-4 run.

Swensen exited the game to a standing ovation prior to the final buzzer and gave as many hugs and shook as many hands as he could between the court and the home locker room. It wasn't the end to the season he or his team wanted but it was still the end of a remarkable journey that could have turned out a lot worse - and probably would have for most people.

"I loved the environment here," Swensen said. "The fans are always great and the community really got behind me when I got hurt. It meant more to me than they realize and my family - this was for them. This was for my brothers and my entire family. To me (1,000) is just a number, but it means a lot to them."

 

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