CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- "Adversity" is a term coaches use in discussing how their players will respond when things go awry. Someone looking up the term in a dictionary might see a picture of Cleveland's Qetuwrah Abdullah-Muhammad.
The sophomore is nearing the end of a season that has included pretty much every possible reason not to play basketball. Yet through the injuries and scares on and off the court, she continued to persevere, and she is a big part of the reason the Lady Raiders claimed the No. 2 seed heading into the District 5-AAA tournament next week.
Back in September, she was in rehab for a previous shoulder injury and somehow pinched a nerve. She went through months of medication and muscle relaxers that alleviated some of the tics she had developed.
But in a Nov. 29 game against Hamilton Heights, she fell at one point, then later went into shock on the bench and had to be escorted to the locker room by coaches and her mother. She returned to the bench later but was unable to play.
"I didn't realize how serious it was until then," Qetuwrah said. "I had never had it so bad that I fell. My wrist was bent back and I thought I broke it. It was then that I didn't know if I was going to be able to play."
There was no official term for her condition. Cleveland coach Mindy Kiser called it a "gross motor twitch."
Qetuwrah said it was diagnosed as an "involuntary nerve muscle spasm." The symptoms for the condition actually fall under Tourette's Syndrome, although even that's not the proper term.
"Qetuwrah gets so jazzed up before games, and a couple of times her adrenaline would affect the nerves," Kiser said. "We played in some games where there was a lot of fans and music, and she could feel it coming and was able to take herself away and relax some."
Said Qetuwrah: "Just living became hard for me. There were times that I couldn't write, couldn't sleep, and I didn't know if I was going to be able to continue in sports, and that was hard because I enjoy playing."
The athletic Abdullah-Muhammad won the Class AAA state long jump championship as a freshman and has been a two-year starter in basketball. With her health in question, Kiser said the family and coaches had to get her to back off.
"I had to remind her that it's not just about the game," Kiser said. "She's a phenomenal athlete with a better career down the road. It's about the team, but it's about her. She's successful in track and a good volleyball player. You want to be selfish as a coach, but in the big picture I told her, 'When you have kids, you want to be able to play with them.'
"It irritated her at times because it kills her to be out of games, or out of drills in practice, but her mom and I won out on that one. It was hard for us because it's not an injury that you just know how to diagnose. You can't pinpoint it, and there's no brace or an explanation as to what's happening."
Qetuwrah has also had to deal with a nagging thumb injury, as well as a bruised chest cavity suffered against Rhea County recently, which has led to a couple more trips to the emergency room. With all the injuries, Kiser noted that Qetuwrah has been blessed by an excellent support system, namely junior and older sister Atarah, as well as fellow sophomore Nora Berry.
"One minute, I feel like I'm 100 percent, then something happens and I feel back where I started this season," Qetuwrah said. "The fact that I have good teammates around me has helped me both mentally and emotionally.
"I think through all of this, I value stepping on the floor a lot more. Before the Hamilton Heights game, I took things for granted -- like being on the floor, walking, sleeping and going to school. When people complained about it, it made me mad because I couldn't do any of that.
"I appreciate all of the little things a lot more now."