Marcus Ramirez and his Mountain Pointe teammates woke up Friday with a scheduled appointment.
They all prepared.
Only Ramirez didn't need his No. 11 home jersey or a basketball. The standard-issue hospital gown and silver crutches made sure of that.
While the Pride met Mesa Westwood on the hardwood at 7 p.m., hours earlier Ramirez met an anesthesiologist at a Phoenix hospital before an 11:30 a.m. knee surgery.
"It's tough knowing they were going to have a game, their season continues and mine is over," Ramirez said a couple of days before having his meniscus repaired in his right knee. "It's kind of heartbreaking because you want to be out there contributing."
Ramirez, a junior, is one of a countless number of high school athletes who have to endure surgery in their careers. There are so many sides to the whole process, but the most important thing might be their age.
It reduces the recovery time because a young body bounces back so quickly, but it also puts an awful lot of burden on a young mind. The mental side is probably the most important part of surgery. Their brain starts working overtime from the moment the injury occurs until the first couple of practices and/or games back.
"They are just 16, 17 years old and it is a lot to deal with," Mountain Pointe coach Brian Fleming said. "You have to look them in the eye and talk about their options. For players like Marcus, who is so team oriented, you know he feels like he is letting everyone down.
"You have to sit down with the parents and be straight with them and make sure they understand everything that is going to happen."
Ramirez, 17, is beating himself up about how it came about as his competitive nature probably made the injury worse. He got hurt in practice when he went up for a ball and jammed his knee on the court when he came down awkwardly.
"I got back up. It felt like something was wrong but I kept going," Ramirez said. "That's what bothers me. I thought I could play through it. I just wanted to do my part."
If he spoke up instead of pushing through maybe it doesn't tear as much. Maybe he misses just a handful of games. Maybe he finishes his junior year. Maybe he doesn't miss the postseason.
Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
"It's the hardest part - wondering what if," Ramirez said. "It's my junior year, and I was hoping to get noticed (from college recruiters) and help these seniors win a state championship. If I didn't continue practicing maybe all of that still happens."
Second-guessing is an easy thing to do after the fact. But that same desire to play through the pain is what made Ramirez a special part of the Pride's rotation.
"He really started to play well before he got hurt," Fleming said. "The one thing we will miss is the fact that Marcus made up for a lot of other people's weaknesses. He was off on the weak side taking the charge and he was smart on the floor when it comes to defense. He seemed to be at the right place at the right time a lot."
Senior Jerome Garrison said it is pretty clear that the team has a different look when Ramirez, who missed two games early in the season because of turf toe, is not playing.
"With Marcus out it hurts our defense, and we lose his want to win." Garrison said. "He gets upset when players score on him and when he comes back down the floor he brings some extra intensity. We have to find a way to make sure we keep that intensity going."
Ramirez, who usually guards one of the opposition's top offensive threats, was flattered to hear his coach and senior captain talk about him in that fashion.
"It means a lot to hear that," said Ramirez, who averages 6.4 points and 3.2 rebounds. "I just do my part. The little things that really matter to me. I really don't care that much about scoring. We have scorers. I want to do the little things."
The little things now have more to do with the rehabilitation, which should take anywhere between two and four months. It will be another mental barrier to overcome, fighting through the soreness and then another hurdle will come when it is time to lace up the shoes again.
He will have to learn to trust that the knee is back to 100 percent.
"I am going to approach it the same way I do a game - just do it as hard as I can," he said.
Ramirez, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound guard, has plenty of support to get through all of the stages.
His teammate, Izzy Marshall, who had a positive approach to just about everything, lives with the Ramirez family. His parents, Michael and MaryLou, have been there through it all and his brother, Michael, had a similar injury when he was a junior.
The younger Michael, who is red-shirting at Western New Mexico and has an Achilles heel injury, had a knee injury his junior year at Mountain Pointe and has passed on words of wisdom.
"He gives me a lot of feedback and wishes he could be here for me," Marcus said. "We were all bummed at first, but my dad has been kept me up, too, saying we are going to come back even stronger next year."