By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — When Kenmore West running back Alex Price was carted off the field on Oct. 13, 2012 after leading his Blue Devils to a 13-10, hard-fought victory over rival Kenmore East this past football season, his athletic future was in question. More importantly, there was concern as to whether or not he would be able to walk again.
Price fractured the C-5 disc on his vertebrae, breaking a piece of the bone completely off in a scary collision that resulted in the star running back laying motionless for almost 20 minutes. Ken West basketball coach Mike Meetze was with Price that night and when the injury first happened, nobody knew what to expect.
"You hear what the doctors say and you hope for the best, but honestly you fear for the worst," Meetze said. "My big thing is I just want him to be healthy, so he can walk and not have that affect his life forever. That's what I tried to tell him that night, and he didn't want to hear it. He said, 'I'm going to play again coach, I'm going to play again.' I said, 'Alex, let's just worry about walking and make sure you're not paralyzed.' But he kept saying, 'I'm going to be fine, I'm going to beat this thing.'"
Almost three months later — two of which were spent in a neck brace — Price has made a full recovery. He's started every game for the Blue Devils this season, leading them to a 3-0 start in the Niagara Frontier League. His MVP performance helped the Blue Devils win the Ken-Ton tournament over the Winter break.
Price has been thrilled with the success his team has had so far this season, but he's mainly just happy to be able to compete.
"It's been pretty difficult," he said of the recovery period, which included a lot of bed rest and watching as his team prepared for the season. "I'm actually happy I came back — I wasn't supposed to play basketball this season at all. I wasn't supposed to be cleared until late February. But I got a second opinion from a sports doctor who cleared me. I'm just happy to be playing basketball."
Competition fuels Price and his passion for basketball is what motivated him to take his injury and the recovery period seriously so that he could rejoin his teammates sooner than later. Meetze was shocked when Price was a full go in the team's first game of the season and said that, other than some expected rust with his jump shot, he's has been as good as ever this season.
Ken West big man Quinton Campbell gets most of the headlines, and deservedly so, but Price is the lynchpin for the Blue Devils. He's the guy Meetze counts on to make big shots, make the right decisions and lead his team on the defensive end of the floor.
Price was ready to play from the moment Meetze gave him the green light toward the end of last season, when he was promoted to varsity, but he earned his minutes. Meetze brought him up as the 15th man on the team, but he didn't stay that low on the depth chart for long.
"Within five days he put himself at No. 6 on the depth chart and he was the first guy off the bench, which was pretty cool. You don't usually see that. We knew we had something special then, but we wanted him to develop and have the ball in his hand," Meetze said after keeping Price on JV for most of the season despite his obvious talent. "Then it got to the point we couldn't deny him anymore. He was that good. ... A lot of kids will lead with what they perceive as leadership, by saying the right things. But it's much harder to do the right things."
Price has made a habit out of doing the right things this season. Whenever the Blue Devils have faced adversity, it's been Price that's accepted the leadership role — both with the way he motivates his teammates and by making big-time plays.
Against Sweet Home last week, the Blue Devils played a poor first half which resulted in a tight game with the Panthers mid-way through the third quarter. That's when Price took over. He scored his team's final eight points in the third to help the Blue Devils build their first double-digit lead of the game en route to a 62-46 win.
Price said he's modeled his game after Kobe Bryant and always tries to step up and "take over" when he feels his team needs him to be that player. He said he relishes that role, has the utmost confidence in his teammates and expects his team to compete for an NFL and sectional championship.
"We can win the championship," he said. "I want to go to Buff State and win it all. We definitely can if we play tough defense, play hard on the boards and make free throws. I think we can win it all."
Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.