Larkin senior Christian Negron's high school basketball career ended Sunday on the kind of athletic play that made the 6-foot-6 forward a fan favorite and a prized college recruit.
Playing in a fall league game at Whitney Young, Negron hustled back on defense after a Larkin turnover and used his blend of height and athleticism to block a shot at the other end, arguably the signature play in his defensive repertoire over the course of three varsity seasons.
Except this time he landed awkwardly.
"After I blocked the shot, I came down and I heard the knee pop out of place," Negron said. "I looked down and it was definitely not where it was supposed to be. I was hoping it would be a sprain, almost like when you roll your ankle, but it turned out to be a lot worse."
Though Negron and Larkin coach Deryn Carter hoped for better news after Monday's MRI, they learned Tuesday he requires surgery to repair a torn ACL and will miss his senior season.
"I thought, 'It can't be. This can't be happening,' " Negron said of his reaction. "I had been hoping for the best, but I was prepared for the worst. It was tough. My mom (Lisa Negron) took it tougher than I did, which was hard to see."
A three-time all-area selection, last year Negron averaged 16.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2.2 steals and 4.2 blocks per game.
Carter, who said he attended Sunday's game but was not coaching, characterized the play on which the injury occurred as "typical Christian."
"Whether it was an open gym or backyard game or regional championship, Christian always played the same way," Carter said. "That's why people loved him."
The uncommitted senior's attention quickly turned to his college recruitment. In September, he narrowed his college search to five finalists: Alabama-Birmingham, Loyola, DePaul, Bradley and Oregon State.
Coaches from UAB and Loyola visited Larkin on Thursday and reaffirmed their scholarship commitments, said Negron, who added that a phone call from a Bradley coach "made it clear they are still all in."
Negron intends to follow through with his previously scheduled official visit to Bradley this weekend. He is scheduled to visit UAB the weekend of Oct. 13-14 and hopes to visit DePaul later in the month.
"First and foremost, those college coaches are still interested," Carter said. "Those were emotional calls. Christian was so happy to know they still wanted him."
Negron said he has spoken to DePaul coach Dave Leitao since the injury. "He called me (Monday) and wished me well. I haven't confirmed with them where they stand, but they're still active."
Negron recently visited Oregon State, whose commitment is uncertain, he said.
Though Larkin's leader can't help the Royals on the court this year, he will still be a presence on the 2016-17 team.
"He's been in the program here long enough to have a major impact and that won't change," Carter said. "He will still be a leader for us, just in a different manner.
"It's not the end of the world. It's a bump in the road. Hopefully, five or six years from now he'll look back and realize he's better because of this."
Meanwhile, Negron looks forward to a long career in basketball despite the temporary setback.
"After being part of sports for so long, I realize my days of playing basketball are not over," he said. "It's bad, but things get worse than this."