Twin Falls, ID ( KMVT - TV / KTWT - TV ) It was December 1st.
It was the perfect chance for Jon Pulsifer to shine on his home court in front of his home crowd.
"Jon was the heart and soul of this team," CSI men’s basketball head coach Steve Gosar said.
The air was just changing into a crisp winter haze outside.
But what happened inside on the court brought about the biggest change of the season.
"What happened to me? Why?" Pulsifer said.
How could the former Twin Falls high school star feel a pop that seemed to make time stop?
"It was the worst pain I've ever felt," Pulsifer said. "It just felt like my leg was coming off."
"Jon's so tough that I knew the look in his eyes when I saw him, I knew it was something wrong," Gosar said. "I just got a sick feeling in my stomach, and I wished for the best, and unfortunately that wasn't the case."
The reaction was just as big from bystanders in the gym.
"When I saw it I thought, 'Oh here's another ACL,’" said Wright Physical Therapist Tyler Billings. "I was getting texts from people saying 'Oh no, looks like an ACL, what do you think?’ I was like, 'Yeah, I think it's an ACL.'”
In fact, the injury threw everyone off. Unlike the more common ligament tears suffered by aggressive athletes like Derrick Rose and Adrian Petersen, Jon Pulsifer was an athletic anomaly.
He tore the cartilage in his knee along with his meniscus, and the recovery time for this type of injury rivals that of an ACL incident.
"I just remember going to the locker room and throwing everything that I could—even my crutches," Pulsifer said.
"The first couple of weeks after I got hurt— the first couple of days, [I was] just lying around thinking, 'I don't know what I'm gonna do. What's happening?’ I didn't get any sleep. I stayed up till 7, 6 o'clock in the morning just thinking," he said.
"I got a lot of support, a lot of texts, a lot of phone calls and to tell you the truth, I didn't answer them," he said. "I just wanted to be alone."
For a kid who's always been vocal on and off of the court, all of the sudden it seemed like his voice and spirit were trapped.
"I was in kind of a dark place for a little bit, not talking to anyone, not doing what I wanted to do,” Jon admitted. “It sucks, cause I never thought I wanted to be like that."
But misery and anger soon gave way to a brighter emotion fueled by the competitive spirit that never quite seems to leave a true athlete, no matter the circumstances.
"I knew I had to get back out, and I knew that there's hope—there's always going to be hope."
* * *
"I never thought I'd be saying this, but I love walking."
Jon Pulsifer had quite the uphill battle to climb, and it included just remembering how to take simple steps.
"He was on crutches and a brace for six weeks," Billings said. "ACL—we typically see for ten days, 14 days max of crutches."
"When I went to the doctor's appointment, and he said 'Hey, you can take steps at a time with your crutches,’ my eyes just lit up," Pulsifer recounted. "I couldn't wait to try it."
With rehab coming along slowly, a weight has been lifted off of Pulsifer literally--and figuratively--through the support of his second family.
"They were there 100 percent of the way for me,” Pulsifer said. “Coach Blaine, Coach Gosar and Coach Devlin all helped me get through it, as well as the rest of the team did. They're all there for me, that's what the family is for."
And that CSI family extends beyond the court.
Fans from all over the Magic Valley rallied behind Jon and showed their support.
"Our community really gets behind these kids, and that's a special part of our program,” Gosar said.
While his time at CSI ended too soon, Jon's basketball journey as Twin Falls’ ‘chosen one’ is far from over.
“He hates to lose as much as anybody,” Gosar said. “With the injury now he's had to change, and I tell you, he hasn't lost his leadership voice."
In fact, with the ugly injury that came on a day where a winter haze blew in, a pulse from pain and process created a rebirth awakened like a spring renewal.
"It does motivate me now because I know the tools to do everything,” Pulsifer said.
And the effect has not gone unnoticed.
"I think programs would be crazy not to find a spot in their program for a guy like Jon Pulsifer,” Gosar said.
“[He’s] a guy that's tough, a guy that plays hard and is really smart and understands the game, [and] I think those [types of players] will always have spots--positions--on good teams."
As for Jon’s response, it’s simple.
“Once I get to the next level, I'll be just as good or even better."