After you earn the title Miss Basketball, it is with you for life, especially in this state.
So as she sat in the doctor's office at the University of Kentucky to get test results back around this time last fall, Rebecca Gray couldn't believe the words she was hearing.
The doctor looked at her and said, "No more working out. No getting in the pool. No more anything that gets your heart rate up."
And then the Scott County Miss Basketball heard the words:
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"No more basketball," he said quietly.
Rebecca Gray, surrounded by her mother, Amy, and her father, Todd, sat there numb.
"It's like it was happening in slow motion," the guard said. "I could see what was coming out of his mouth, but it was coming out so slowly."
Amy started to cry.
Todd's eyes started to fill up slowly, too.
Rebecca waited for any feeling at all to return to her body.
"Basketball's something you've been doing since you were old enough to do it," she said. "It's your passion. It's your biggest dream in life just taken away from you. I couldn't even soak it up."
A Miss Basketball without basketball?
It just didn't make sense.
"Basketball is who I am," she said. "It's my vehicle and it gets me places, and when the doctor said that, it was like, 'Who am I now? What am I now? What do I do now?'"
'Life after basketball'
The former Scott County star's roller-coaster ride started on a normal morning in September 2008.
Gray, who had transferred from North Carolina back to Kentucky to play for her beloved Wildcats, was working out with her teammates.
They were running big fives, which involve sprinting the length of the Joe Craft Center floor five times in a row without stopping.
"When I touched the line to go on my fifth one, I don't remember anything after that," Gray said. "When I did come back, my head hurt really bad because I hit it hard when I collapsed."
The next thing Gray remembers is paramedics standing around her.
She called her father, a former paramedic himself, from the ambulance.
Gray spent the day at UK Hospital with her parents, including her mother, a nurse.
UK's doctors ran multitudes of tests on the seemingly healthy basketball player.
"I had IVs sticking everywhere," she recalled.
The initial diagnosis was long QT syndrome, a heart rhythm disorder.
After each beat, a healthy heart's electrical system recharges itself in preparation for the next heartbeat. In long QT syndrome, the heart muscle takes longer than normal to recharge between beats, according to information provided by the Mayo Clinic.
In some cases, the heart's rhythm might be so erratic that it can cause sudden death.
The initial diagnosis meant no more basketball for Miss Basketball, who had been playing since she was 7 years old in youth leagues.
Todd Gray remembers feeling blessed that his daughter was still alive but sad that her dreams were dying in front of him.
They talked about her playing golf instead. They wanted to give her something new on which to focus.
"The sensible part of parenting has to step in and remind her that there's life after basketball, too," he said.
Rebecca Gray, the citizen and suddenly non-basketball player, tried to make something positive out of her misery. She went back to her old high school and gave a pep talk to the players there.
"Rebecca talked to our team about playing as hard as you can, every second you're on the floor and not taking it for granted that tomorrow, 'I'll have a better practice or have a better game,'" said her high school coach, Steve Helton. "She was not going to be able to be given a tomorrow to play basketball.
"It tore out our hearts," he said, recalling that Gray said all of this even as her Miss Basketball banner hung overhead and her Gatorade Player of the Year plaque still sat in her old locker.
A second chance
UK decided to run more tests. Long QT syndrome is a genetic disorder, so doctors did more blood work to confirm what they were dealing with.
The tests came back negative for the disease.
"It was the first big break, right before Christmas," Todd Gray said. "It gave us a little ray of hope."
UK urged Gray and her father to go to the Mayo Clinic, which specializes in long QT syndrome.
After many more tests, the doctors assured Gray that she was fine, that she could play basketball again. As of late February, she was cleared to play.
"That was probably one of the best days of our lives," Todd Gray said. "It was an amazing feeling for all of us."
Gray, the father, said doctors think his daughter's collapse was because of some major dehydration issues she's had her entire career.
At the time of her collapse, Rebecca was coming off minor off-season surgery and wasn't in top shape. She also was taking over-the-counter cold medication that had added to her dehydration problem.
Doctors don't think she'll collapse again.
Rebecca, whose nickname since she was a child is "Bee," went out and had a tattoo of a bee spinning a basketball etched onto her ankle to remind her of what she almost lost. She thinks about it every time she puts on socks, and blue and white Nike sneakers.
"It commemorates my second chance to fly," she said.
Wearing the (UK) blue
One of the many things Gray missed out on last season was getting to be a part of Big Blue Madness.
Todd Gray's voice changed as he thought about getting a chance to see his daughter play in a UK jersey on Friday.
"It'll be huge for her to be a part of that," he said. "She went to North Carolina, but she's always been big blue, UK."
Rebecca echoed her dad.
"You can't describe the feeling when you put on this jersey and you walk out there and you're playing for UK; it's so much pride," she said. "I actually get to play and do this thing that I love.
"The fact that I can think about how I almost lost the game, it makes me go twice as hard."
Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell is excited to get Gray in a UK jersey this season, too.
He hopes her passion for the game can help the Cats have a good season.
"What Rebecca's got to do is remember what it's like — how it felt — to have the game taken away from her," Mitchell said. "She could use that to fuel her fire and really get that going."