was introduced to the sport of basketball at a very young age, and like so many others, she immediately fell in love with the game.
However, unlike most, the Colonial Heights (Va.)
guard was told after her freshman year that she might never play again. She just couldn't understand why something so important to her could be taken away. So she refused to let it go.
"I never lost faith that I would play again," Akers, now a senior, says. "I'm a Christian, and my family and I have a very strong faith. I knew God would take care of me."
Akers has had more injuries and undergone more surgeries in her high school career than most people go through in a lifetime.
It all started her freshman year when, what she thought was pain in her left leg from the normal wear and tear of playing basketball, turned out to be a tumor. Her doctor broke the news to her that the tumor had eaten away just about all of her tibia bone.
"If I had waited another week my leg would have had to be amputated," Akers said of her January 2009 scare.
She underwent surgery and the tumor turned out to be benign, ending Akers' biggest fears. However, the ordeal was far from over. She went under the knife again so a surgeon could replace her eroded tibia with a cadaver's bone.
"I never knew they could do something like that," Akers admitted. "It's kind of weird to know I have someone else's bone in my body, but it was the best way to go."
Akers said she was relieved the two surgeries were over, and was ready to move forward. … Not quite yet.
A post-surgery infection forced Akers back into the hospital for a third surgery, forcing her family to huddle together and figure out the best way to help their daughter and sister.
"My mom was with me in the hospital the entire time and so my dad became ‘Mr. Mom' to my three sisters," Akers, who missed seven months of school, recalled. "And then when I came home from the hospital I couldn't do all the things I used to take for granted - shower, climb stairs, sleep in my own bed, get dressed. My family had to step up and do that for me. It was definitely teamwork."
As for her other team, Akers' doctors told her it would not be safe to play basketball ever again, and for the first time in her life she and her parents were forced to face the reality she might have played her last game.
"I never really accepted it," Akers said. "My dad was just as on fire for me to come back as I was. My mom was a little more concerned, until she saw me get stronger with physical therapy. And we knew we had God on our side."
The determined 5-foot-6 guard ignored her doctors' advice and came back for her sophomore year ready to play. Unfortunately, her comeback attempt came to a screeching halt halfway through the season when she injured her left knee, tearing her anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and meniscus.
"It was weird, because it was one year to the day from my first surgery when I tore my knee," she said with a laugh. "And I was like, 'Not again.'"
Akers underwent two more surgeries. The first was to reconstruct her knee and the second to clean up scar tissue. Then it was back to physical therapy … again.
"I worked hard," she said, "and went to lots of physical therapy. Prayer and support got me back on the court."
When Akers arrived for the first practice her junior year, head coach Jim Crinkley wasn't quite sure how to react.
"Tearing your ACL and MCL is small potatoes compared to taking a chance with cancer," Crinkley said. "But needless to say she was treated with kid gloves, even though she didn't want to be."
Akers went through her entire junior season injury-free, and entered her senior year this past fall with a renewed sense of confidence in her physical health.
"We were still all on pins and needles," Crinkley said.
And, unfortunately, for good reason. Akers severely sprained her left ankle just four games into the season. She, and her 15 points per game, were once again relegated to the injured reserve list.
"When she went down and I got over there and found out it was ‘just' her ankle, I happily said, ‘Yes, it's her ankle,'" Crinkley recalled with a chuckle. "And I swear that's the truth because it not being her knee was a good thing."
Akers missed 10 games, but returned to the lineup determined to make the most of what was left of her high school career. She scored 21 points and grabbed five rebounds in a recent 42-37 win over Dinwiddie.
"We are not a very skilled team, and now all of a sudden our best player is back," Crinkley explained of his 5-11 team's reaction to their star player's return. "She's a much better player than she was in December. She's leading the team and it's like she's never been gone."
Most players with Akers' health issues would be far off the radar of college coaches. But Akers has defied those odds too, and has received several offers from Division II schools. However, she has already been accepted at, and plans to attend, the University of Richmond, where she's been invited to try out for the team.
"She's a student first," Crinkley proudly said. "But it's a nice honor that they are going to let her walk on the basketball team and see if they have a place for her."
Walking on to a mid-major Division I team is an uphill battle. But, if anyone has proven to have the determination and stamina to overcome adversity, it's Akers. Besides, she is taking the approach that if it doesn't work out, so be it. Because if there's one thing the "medical marvel" has learned from the time she was first told she might never play again, it's that there's more to life than the game of basketball.
"After all that has happened, I have a different perspective on life and the things I took for granted," she said. "I realize basketball isn't all I'm good at. I got into a great college and have a great family and support system. I know God has a plan for me and whatever happens is what he wants for me.
"I think my life was meant to happen this way … and I'm glad it did."Jon Buzby is the sports columnist for the Newark Post, a freelance writer, and on the broadcast team for the 1290AM The Ticket High School Football and Basketball Games of the Week. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.