Of all the breaks that didn't go Transylvania's way last basketball season, the cruelest involved Tate Cox.
A gifted 6-foot-1 freshman out of Knott County Central, Cox came in and won the job as the Pioneers' point guard.
Seven games in, though, Cox broke his left hand, costing him 13 games.
"When he went out, we struggled," Coach Brian Lane said. "We had to move Barrett Meyer from the two to the point. I think that eliminated a very good three-point threat for us from the two spot and I think it affected Barrett's scoring as well because he was having to do a lot more from an offensive and defensive standpoint."
As Transy prepares to open another season Tuesday night against Spalding, Cox is ready, willing and able to go.
He's also wiser, having learned from his injury time.
"For one thing, I (learned) that we need a leader out there running the point," Cox said. "I felt like there were a few games that we let slip away because of that reason. It was good getting to see it all from the sidelines."
With Cox back, Transy is the pre-season favorite to win the Heartland Conference.
A 97-53 exhibition loss to Kentucky showed glimpses of the Pioneers' promise.
Remember, this was an NCAA Division III (non-scholarship) program facing the No. 2 team in Division I.
Transy led 11-4 early and was tied with 6½ minutes left in the half.
"I think we learned a lot of things, especially defensively," Cox said. "Obviously there was a great size advantage for Kentucky. But we got to analyze the videotape. It showed us a lot of weaknesses that we have right now. It will definitely help us for this coming season, make us a lot better team.
"It definitely does (build confidence). Especially starting out on them 11-4. ... There were a lot of possessions that just little-bitty things that we would mess up on; that game could have easily been a four-point game at halftime."
Confident, healthy and a year wiser, Cox also has been a leader in the weight room.
"He's just really strong with the ball. ... He's able to get in and take the bumps and the hits as he's driving down the lane," Lane said. "We actually have guys that bounce off him instead of him falling down or out of control. He certainly has the outside game, but it's complemented by the ability to drive in and finish against an aggressive-type defense."
Cox's shooting ability makes him a multi-dimensional threat for a point guard.
Lane has plays that are designed to get Cox shots. The coach says Cox, who shot 42.9 percent from three-point range and 84.8 percent at the free-throw line last season, rarely makes poor decisions. Lane thinks Cox can have a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio this season.
Cox thinks he can help his team to new heights.
"A realistic goal is definitely a conference championship," Cox said. "There's no doubt in my mind that we should be playing in the national tournament, and I think we've got everything it takes to make a deep run."