A memory lingers from Tennessee's 2008-09 women's basketball season. The sight of the Lady Vols scattered about a locker room like shards of broken glass doesn't fade easily.
The same could be said for a first-round NCAA tournament loss to Ball State, which created the fallout.
Pulling this shattered group back together and getting everyone back on their feet was expected. But an aneurysm and a group of Iraqis serving as dual catalysts was beyond far-fetched.
"You know something like that is: Where does that come from?" sophomore guard Alicia Manning said.
The wildest imagination would've struggled to conceive the combination.
The aneurysm saga was mind-boggling enough. Lady Vol Amber Gray's stroke after shoulder surgery in July and subsequent brain surgery rocked everyone's world. UT coach Pat Summitt still gets emotional when asked about it on the speaking circuit.
The players, who have reconvened for fall classes and individual workouts, have a vivid recall of the dramatic chain of events, along with their impact.
"It was crazy,'' junior guard Angie Bjorklund said. "I was really proud of our team for coming together right when it happened. Our whole team was there supporting her. We were in that (hospital) room praying for her. We stayed there until they kicked us out."
The players also have come together over a prevailing sentiment: Take nothing for granted.
"I know,'' sophomore guard Briana Bass said, "and our team knows that (Gray) wishes she was here right now. So we're busting our butt for her."
Gray, who is recovering at home in West Chester, Ohio, visited last weekend and has vowed to return to the court. In the meantime, the inspiration likely will be ongoing.
Under the circumstances, it's hard for a plucky group of Iraqis to compete. Ten girls from the country, along with three coaches, attended Tennessee's basketball camp in June. Summitt had videotaped a message for them as part of the Sport 4 Peace development organization and their dream was to visit the United States, attend a WNBA game and to meet Summitt and thank her.
The young Iraqis mingled with the Lady Vols during camp. Sounds like sophomore Alyssia Brewer owes them a debt of gratitude.
"It was awesome to be able to watch them,'' she said. "I was score-keeping one of their games. They got so excited, just whenever they scored a basket. They were just excited to shoot a basket or do a good pass or anything like that. They didn't take anything for granted. Anything was good for them.
"I also heard how they cried after one of their games. That just shows they have a competition level for themselves. Even though they might have never played, they still have that mindset of competition. I thought that was awesome."
Brewer was particularly down and out after the Ball State loss last April. She was lying on the floor with her head propped up against a wall. She could've used some help in getting up.
Imagine a young Iraqi girl reaching out her hands. Brewer couldn't have then but she probably could now.
"It makes you feel that you are special for what you have,'' Brewer said. "It's not necessarily that we're spoiled, but it's just we have to know since we have this opportunity we have to build on that."
Perhaps the thought will linger.
Dan Fleser covers Tennessee Lady Vols basketball. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.