Chelsea Anderson is just happy to be back on the basketball court.
Her coach, Storm Lake High's Stacy VanDerSloot, is just as pleased about it. With Anderson leading the way, the Tornado girls cagers have stormed to a 3-1 start and are atop the Lakes Conference with a 2-0 mark.
But the ability of Anderson to play this year was in question during the offseason.
"It was a big question mark," said VanDerSloot.
Anderson, a 5-foot-10 post player, felt some pain in her knee during pre-season practice last season, then the pain got so bad after last year's Meet the Team Night scrimmage that she had to limp off the court. She missed all but one game of the 2002-2003 season.
"I wasn't sure when or how I injured the knee, it just was very painful," Anderson said.
Anderson sought the opinion of doctors in Storm Lake, Sioux City and Sioux Falls, S.D., Finally, they diagnosed the knee problem, Anderson said.
"The knee cap wasn't tracking properly along with the knee and there was some cartilage loss," the senior remembered.
She made frequent trips to Sioux Falls for physical therapy sessions and the knee eventually got better over time.
"But I still do stretching exercises with it just before I go to bed every night," Anderson said. "So far this season, the knee feels great. It's 100 percent healthy."
So is Anderson's game.
In a win over Spirit Lake last week, Anderson scored a career-high 18 points from her post position. In a Lakes Conference win over traditionally strong LeMars last Thursday night, Anderson reached another career-high, scoring a game-high 20 points.
"Chelsea's just a strong natural athlete, and she has a lot of different skills that she brings as a post player," VanDerSloot said.
That's because Anderson started out as a point guard, where she played from the fifth through eight grades. A growth spurt moved her to the wing and then eventually, to the post position.
"She runs the floor well for a post player, has a nice outside shot and handles the ball well," VanDerSloot said. "Against the press, she's able to come back and help the guards bring the ball upcourt."
Anderson added that having the defensive skills of a former guard also helps in the post.
Nevertheless, this is Anderson's first full year on varsity. And her knee wasn't the first time she dealt with injury. During her sophomore year, she spent time playing both junior varsity and varsity but was hindered by hip problems.
Anderson said all the injury problems have been frustrating, but it's all coming together early this season.
"It helps that we have really strong guards," she said. "They make good passes inside to the post players and they shoot well from the outside. When other teams' defenses go out to guard them, it opens things up under the basket."
Despite those facts, the Storm Lake senior says the transition from guard and wing to post has taken some adjustment.
"When you're a guard or a wing, you're facing the basket when you've got the ball," Anderson said. "When you're a post player, you're back is to the basket when you get a pass and you've got big girls guarding you."
According ot VanDerSloot, Anderson has made the transition because of her athletic ability, but for other reasons as well.
"She can move so well either with the ball or without the ball," the coach said. "But it's her work ethic in practice and during games that has helped, too. She's very coachable and has learned a lot in a short time."
VanDerSloot, however, said it won't be long before teams start keying on Anderson given her point production in the first few games.
"I'm sure they've noticed she scored 18 and 20 points in our first two conference games," VanDerSloot said. "But when teams really start keying on Chelsea, that will open things up outside for our guards."
Still, VanDerSloot expects Anderson to handle any adversity well.
"She sets her standards very high and always expects a lot out of herself," the coach said.
Both the coach and Anderson, meanwhile, have high expectations for this year's team.
"I'm pleased with our start, but we still have a lot of conference games left, including four before Christmas," VanDerSloot said. "It's a very even conference this season so whichever team is willing to play hardest on any given night will come out on top."
Added Anderson: "It was great to finally beat LeMars, because we hadn't done that in a while. I think Hull Christian, Spencer and Cherokee are games that will be tough, but all the teams in the conference are about the same.
"We have to work on some things, like limiting our turnovers, but we have high goals as a team. We want to win our conference and eventually make it to state."
Anderson, meanwhile, will attend Buena Vista University next fall and play golf for the Beavers.
She's been the Tornado girls golf team's No. 1 since she was a freshman and took fifth individually last year in the conference meet.
"But I haven't been to state yet in golf, so that's my goal."
Two state tournament appearances in one school year would suit Anderson just fine, she said.