It was almost immediate.
As soon as the they heard the terrible news this past winter, they reached out to Heather Corral.
College coaches from across the country relayed their messages to Corral, reassuring her that her latest knee injury would not affect the recruiting process. They had seen her enough to realize the talent. They watched her come back from a previous knee injury as an improved all-around player.
“They saw me go through the first one and I came back better and stronger,” Corral said. “They’re confident I’ll come back from this second one, too.”
It put Corral at ease as she was about to embark on another months-long rehabilitation program.
It was an even better feeling this summer when all of those coaches stayed true to their words.
Corral, a senior at Prairie High School, has been sifting through hundreds of letters from colleges across the country. With advice from her older sister Ashley, a scholarship athlete for the University of Southern California, Heather Corral is going through the elimination process after receiving dozens of Division I scholarship offers.
Last week, she said she is down to a final five — Gonzaga, Oregon State, Colorado, Washington, and Kentucky.
“I want to do early signing (in November),” Corral said. “I’ll know by October.”
It is not the desired method of finding a college, forced from action the summer prior to senior year.
Yet, she made the best of the situation.
“It was frustrating to sit there and watch,” she said. “It was fun to watch at the same time because I love basketball.”
She has done this before, too.
Corral suffered a serious injury to her right knee in December of her sophomore year with the Falcons, requiring ACL and microfracture surgery.
She missed that summer, but fine-tuned her shooting stroke — one of the few things one can work on during the early stages of rehabilitation.
She returned to the floor for her junior season, impressing college coaches with a long-range shot as well as her ability to drive and dish to open teammates.
Her defense alone is worthy of a look, too. A 6-foot, 1-inch guard, her reach and speed frustrate opposing offenses.
She led the Falcons to an undefeated record going into the bi-district tournament before tearing a ligament in her left knee. The Falcons would go on to finish second in state. Corral was named to the Associated Press’ all-state team.
Corral had surgery in March and is once again trying to better herself as a player without the benefit of playing the game.
As soon as she could, she was shooting again. She assisted with the Columbia Cascade club team, which featured three of her Prairie teammates.
“I was there to support them and help wherever I could,” Corral said.
“She has matured and grown up a lot,” Prairie and Cascade coach Al Aldridge said. “She is accepting her situation with grace and enthusiasm. She has made some informed choices to this point and I think she has some great choices in front of her. She’s going to be happy at any one of those five schools. Hope she continues to research ... and she’ll be happy for four years.”
The time away from playing this summer, she said, will help in the long run.
“You learn a lot sitting there, a whole new perspective,” she said. “You see what the coaches are seeing and thinking about during the game. It will help you trust them more when you’re on the court.”
Right now, she has to trust her own instincts. College will be her decision, but she is grateful for the advice given to her by family, friends, and coaches.
She also is aware that she received attention earlier than some athletes because of Ashley.
“It’s an advantage having an older sister who has gone through it. You know what to expect,” Heather said.
Ashley Corral, Prairie class of 2008, was perhaps the most heavily recruited girls basketball player Southwest Washington has produced. She is the only athlete from Clark County who has played in the McDonald’s All-America Game.
“Her being so successful got college coaches to look at me sooner because they knew she was so good. It definitely helped,” Heather said.
She might have received looks because of Ashley, but it was Heather’s ability that earned the scholarship offers.
Aldridge said if Heather had not missed most of her sophomore year and then the past two summers, she could have been a McDonald’s All-American just like Ashley.
The offers came in waves, one after the other. Heather went to Ashley for advice.
“She explained to me you have to go somewhere you see yourself living at even if basketball was not there,” Heather said. “Some coaches will say anything to get you to go to a school. You just have to decide what you want in a college.”
Fortunately for Heather, she said she has not had a bad experience with any coach through this recruiting process. But in a way, that’s tough, too, when she has to turn down an offer.
“It’s really hard because you grow amazing relationships with some of the coaches,” she said.
One school she did turn down was USC.
“It wasn’t for me. It’s for her,” Heather said of Ashley. “She definitely loves it there, but it wasn’t for me.”
That did not cause a rift in the family. Ashley and Heather do not come across as sibling rivals — rather best friends who always support the other.
Ashley said she is proud of her sister for handling all the pressures involved with following a family member who has accomplished so much.
“She’s grown up a lot the last four years,” Ashley said. “She’s done really well with that.”
Ashley, who is preparing for her senior season at USC, is excited for Heather’s future, as well.
“I’m definitely proud of her. She’s done a lot of amazing things,” Ashley said. “Whichever school she chooses, she’s going to help build their program and take that program somewhere.”
The future basketball home for Heather Corral will be decided soon enough. That program will appreciate the fact that she is ahead of schedule with her knee rehabilitation.
Once she got her mobility back, she moved on to strengthening the muscles around the knee. At the four-month mark, she started running straight ahead. Next on the schedule of rehab is jumping, then cutting, then moving side-to-side.
Heather said she is in between jumping and cutting.
She expects to be 100 percent by the time practice starts in November.
By then, she will know where she will be playing her college basketball — on two reconstructed knees and a passion for the game that has only grown while away from the action.