AP Sports Writer
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- The long scar on the left side of Luke Recker's face is evidence of his awful summer.
Finally settling in at Arizona, where he transferred after two stormy seasons under Bob Knight at Indiana, Recker said living through last July's car crash has made him appreciate how fortunate he is.
Recker (left), when he met the media with Coach Olson in September.
``I realize that life is short, and it is fragile, so I want to give my best effort in everything I do.''
Recker was a prep sensation in basketball-crazy Indiana, a winner of the coveted Mr. Basketball award. At 15, just a high school sophomore, he committed to playing for Knight, a decision he came to regret.
Last season, he averaged 16.2 points as a sophomore for the Hoosiers but wanted to leave Knight's iron command.
He considered North Carolina, Florida, Iowa and Notre Dame, but settled on Arizona. He felt he could win a national championship there, and he liked the relationship coach Lute Olson seemed to build with his players.
He also noticed the way Olson's best players succeeded in the NBA. Recker felt Olson would best allow him to develop into a shooting guard, his best chance of making it as a pro.
Then, on July 10 on a highway near Durango, Colo., a truck veered across the center lane and sideswiped a car in which Recker was a passenger. The driver of the car was killed. Recker's girlfriend, Kelly Craig, was partially paralyzed by a spinal cord injury.
``It's amazing that life can change in a heartbeat,'' Recker said.
Besides the laceration near his ear, Recker dislocated several small bones at the base of his left thumb and still has not fully recovered from the surgery. He can take part in some drills, but won't be cleared for full participation for another month.
Recker's girlfriend was to have moved with him to Arizona. Instead, she has been undergoing rehabilitation in Chicago. She recently moved home, but may have to return to the rehab center.
``We talk every night on the phone, but still it's really, really tough to deal with,'' Recker said. ``She's steadily improving, but spinal cord injuries are so slow. It's an injury where it's tough to see progress even though there is. It's just something you never expect to happen, and we're hoping and praying for the best.''
Recker decided not to change his plans to transfer, even though it meant leaving his girlfriend.
``Obviously, it was tough leaving home in the situation that occurred,'' he said. ``But at the same time, I needed to continue to go on with my life and keep trying to be the best I can. I'll be there for Kelly by talking to her on the phone, but it was important for me to get out here and get adjusted.''
Recker never heard from anyone on the Indiana coaching staff after the accident, but he talks regularly with several players, including best friend Dane Fife.
Meanwhile, he has fit in quickly with his new teammates.
``He's a good guy. He's real personable so he's easy to get along with,'' Arizona senior guard Josh Pastner said. ``It's good therapy for him because he's around the game of basketball and around his teammates. We realize that this guy's been through a lot. Everyone's behind him.''
Now Recker must sit and watch his teammates play. He won't be eligible until next season.
``It's going to be very, very difficult for me,'' he said. ``I knew it was going to be hard when I left Indiana, but now I'm really itching to be playing again in a game, and it's going to be a lot more difficult than I expected.''
Olson said Recker can be a big help to the team just by his presence and his performance in practice.
``His experience and mental toughness will be important for us as the season goes on,'' Olson said.
Patience is just the latest lesson in a year of tough ones for Recker.
``It's been pretty lonely because I've left my surroundings and my friends and I'm starting all over again -- learning even where the closest Burger King is,'' he said. ``It's all new to me, but I've developed a good relationship with the guys on the team. They've been great, and the people in general have been great.
``It's going to be tough to sit out this year, but when my time comes, I'll be ready.''