Laila Charley gets OK to play basketball this winter, is determined to make an impact

Navajo Prep guard excited about return to court

Matt Hollinshead
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Prep guard Laila Charley works on her jump shot outside her home on Saturday, June 12, 2021, in Farmington. Charley, who suffered a brain injury in an ATV accident in July 2020, recently got the OK from her neurosurgeon to play basketball this winter.

FARMINGTON — Rehabbing tirelessly for months on end with a burning desire to return to the basketball court, Laila Charley awaited one phone call that would change everything.

Earlier this month, she got that call, from her neurosurgeon, Dr. Christian Bowers of the University of New Mexico Hospital.

Bowers gave Charley the OK to play again this winter and finish out her tenure at Navajo Prep.

“Once I got that phone call in the morning, it made my whole day… I was so excited to play again,” Charley said. “It feels great. Knowing the beginning, I wasn’t able to do much; I was barely able to shoot right in front of the (basket). Now I’m able to shoot 3-pointers with no problem… I’m happy with the position I’m in right now.”

The long road

Charley suffered a brain injury in an all-terrain vehicle accident in July 2020, just four months after Prep won the first of its back-to-back state titles. After relearning how to walk and talk, and other basic functions, she went right to work with basketball-related training from dribbling to shooting.

“From that time to now, it’s good to see her out there wanting to push herself to get back to where she was. She’s out there every day, I’m telling you... She’ll play (basketball) against boys,” Lillie Charley, Laila’s mother, said.

Laila Charley, who also received medical redshirt eligibility from the New Mexico Activities Association to play this winter, said her latest training involves using a resistance band to develop better body control and explosiveness when sliding on defense.

“A lot of her quickness is coming back,” Michael Charley, Laila’s father, said. “It’s really impressive how far she’s come, and she’s just about there.”

No fear

Laila Charley said she doesn’t want to hold back from doing things like driving to the rim and drawing contact, adding that will help her mentally with her recovery.

In another instance, she and her father were playing one on one. Laila reached in to try and steal the ball, collided with her father and went right to the ground. However, she got right back up.

“She’s very determined,” Lillie Charley said. “She’ll be an inspiration to others to never give up.”

Navajo Prep guard Laila Charley works on penetrating toward the basket using a basketball hoops outside her home on Saturday, June 12, 2021 in Farmington.

Opportunity for growth

Because she’s easing way back in, Laila Charley said she’s learning how to play even smarter basketball — such as drawing in a defender with a shot fake on the perimeter before driving in toward the basket, or anticipating screens and when to switch on defense.

She also said she hopes that she will reach a point by the end of the 2021-2022 campaign where she’ll contribute like she did during Prep’s 2020 state title run.

“With the progress I made right now, I’m really excited for the season, what I can bring to the team,” she said. “Hopefully, I’m still (in) that same place I was before the accident, being a threat dribbling and shooting.”

Matt Hollinshead covers sports and business for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577, and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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