It was a painful break.
It was also a lucky one.
When Michaela Fletcher was in seventh grade, she was a standout soccer player. She had the speed and skill to be one of the top players on her youth team, but one day she tried to make a move around an opponent and her soccer career came to a sudden stop.
“I got hurt a few times, but was always OK, but this time my ankle went left and my body went right,” said Fletcher, a senior at Tacony Academy Charter. “My cleat got planted and stuck. It hurt so bad. I don’t cry usually and this time I cried. I was hurt and very upset.”
The injury caused her to turn in her cleats, but the athlete in her wasn’t ready to give up sports completely. That’s when she tried basketball.
It wasn’t a perfect fit right from the start.
Basketball uses much different skills than soccer, and Fletcher still considered herself a soccer player. It’s safe to say she no longer does that.
Last week, in Tacony Charter’s final game of the season and Fletcher’s final game in high school, she made history by becoming the first 1,000-point scorer in the history of the Lions’ girls program.
She was happy to get in the record books, but she’s faster at giving credit to those around her than she is piling up the points.
“I learned so much over the years because I have a great coach and great teammates,” said Fletcher, who lives in Lawncrest. “The first year, my freshman year, I played, but it was a real struggle. We only won one game and it was by forfeit. We never won a game that we played in.
“Sophomore year, we got a new coach, Coach (Paul) Reiser and he really helped me become a better player and teammate. Sophomore year, I was good, but I wasn’t a good teammate sometimes. I would get real passionate, but I would yell. He showed me how to play, but he also taught me how to be a better leader and how to be a better teammate. He helped me a lot.”
Fletcher learned on the job, but she also credits her teammates for making her a better player.
During her time, she played with many different players. She started every year and no matter who was her supporting cast, Fletcher put up numbers. But she insists her individual accomplishment had a huge team influence.
“I love my teammates, they were all helping me the whole time,” Fletcher said. “I don’t look at this like I scored 1,000 points, I look at it more like we scored 1,000 points. I couldn’t do any of it without them. They always made me better and I always wanted to make them better.”
They succeeded together.
Last year, the Lions advanced to the state tournament. This year, they didn’t make it that far, but they still went 10-2 in Public League play and won 14 games on the season.
The only bad thing about her career is it’s now over.
“I wish we could play together again, but we had a great season and last year was great, too,” Fletcher said. “No matter what, we kept playing hard, and Coach Reiser always had our backs. He always wanted to make us better players.”
If Fletcher is any indication of his coaching, he’s a pretty good one.
“She has grown so much the last three years. She has grown as a player but more importantly as a person,” Reiser said.
“Her teammates really pushed her to get to 1,000 points. Always looking for her in transition and making the extra pass to get Michaela an opportunity to score. That just tells you how much they respect her.”
Next year, she’ll be a fan of the program, but she plans on being busy during the winter.
Though she’s unsure where she’ll end up, the guard hopes to find a college where she can continue to hone her skills and pile up the points.
“I want to do something in athletic training,” Fletcher said. “I think I can help people who went through what I went through. My parents told me to work through it and come out better, and I tried to do that. I think I can help people by teaching them the same thing.”
But while she’s starring in college, both in the classroom and on the court, she’ll continue to pay attention to what’s going on at Tacony Charter.
She might be graduating, but she’ll always be a Lion.
“I’m going to miss everything about it,” Fletcher said. “I love the people here more than anything. They are the reason I did this and they’re the reason why I love going to school and playing basketball so much.
“When I was getting close and our season was (coming to an end), they helped me not worry about scoring 1,000, but they helped me do it. I am happy I did it here. I love the school and all the people.”