Maya Ah You Dias’ knees are covered in scars.
She can barely walk in the morning and takes arthritis medication just to cope.
But the former Middleton High School product is still among the leaders in the nation in scoring and rebounding for Eastern Oregon. It’s resulted in the No. 10 Mountaineers being 21-2 overall, leading the Cascade Collegiate Conference at 15-0, and having the NAIA Division II’s longest winning streak at 21 games.
So even after eight surgeries and three ACL tears, the 5-foot-8 senior guard is still going strong.
“We’ve had a lot of unique stories here, but never one quite like hers,” Eastern Oregon coach Anji Weissenfluh said. “I’ve never seen a competitive spirit like hers. It’s given her the fire and the passion needed to overcome everything she’s been through, and it’s a lot.
“But more importantly, she’s a young lady of strong faith who had the maturity and balance to rise up and be even better than she was before.”
LOVE AND BASKETBALL
Tucked away in her closet at home in La Grande, Oregon, is a basketball.
It’s deflated. Nearly all of the leather tread has worn off and it hasn’t been used in years. Yet, it’s something Ah You Dias will never part with.
The ball was a gift from her late father, Ted Harris, when she was 3.
Harris was a basketball player back in the day and routinely took Ah You Dias down to the park. He showed her how to shoot and dribble between the legs. The latter didn’t go so well at first.
“I remember it kept bouncing off my thighs or knees and my poor dad would have to chase it down every time,” Ah You Dias laughed. “He was very patient with me.”
Ah You Dias, though, quickly got the hang of it. She played in a fifth grade boys basketball league as a second grader in Buffalo, New York, before becoming one of the best players in the state at Middleton.
But her father never saw any of it. He was shot and killed in Buffalo when Ah You Dias was 7. His case still remains unsolved to this day.
“If I had one wish, it would be for him to see me play just one game,” Ah You Dias said. “I would give anything just to hear his advice and what he thinks of me now. Just to be able to be coached by him one more time would be pretty cool.”
A STAR IS BORN
Ah You Dias came to Middleton in the fifth grade.
Her arrival immediately caught the attention of Andy Jones, the Middleton girls basketball varsity coach at the time.
“I can’t remember from who, but I had actually heard that there was a really good little girl basketball player running around,” Jones said. “She came to camp and it was pretty obvious she was advanced for a fifth grader for sure.”
So it came as no surprise when years later, as a sophomore, she earned All-State honors while coming off the bench en route to helping the Vikings win their second consecutive title in 2011. But that season ended up being her only one not marred by injury.
She tore the ACL in her left knee for the first time the summer before her junior year. Ah You Dias landed awkwardly from a rebound during a summer basketball game. So Ah You Dias painfully watched Middleton go 25-0 and win its third state title in a row.
She returned the following season only to tear the exact same knee in eerily similar fashion during the first round of the 2013 state tournament. Ah You Dias then looked on helplessly from the trainer’s table, as the Vikings’ 72-game winning streak, the longest in the country at the time, was snapped with a 42-36 loss to Twin Falls.
“It was just a very sad situation,” Jones said. “She kind of peaked early as far as success at the high school level. I just can’t help but think how much more she could have done for us and how much better of a player she would have been if not for all those injuries. It’s definitely one of those what if moments.”
If all of that wasn’t bad enough, schools, including Ole Miss, started losing interest in her.
“Some (schools) I just never heard from again. Others used the excuse of, ‘We’re going through a coaching change,’” Ah You Dias said. “I understood it was part of the business, but it still hurt my pride a little bit.”
The only offers left were walk-on opportunities from junior colleges and some smaller Division I schools. But nothing was guaranteed.
And then Jones mentioned Eastern Oregon.
SAVING GRACE, BUT ...
Weissenfluh was quite familiar with Ah You Dias
She just didn’t think Ah You Dias was “in their league” being an NAIA Division II program.
However, with circumstances now changed, Weissenfluh was “beyond thrilled” with Ah You Dias’ sudden interest. She signed in August of 2013.
She redshirted her first season after not being medically cleared. Ah You Dias had to have two separate surgeries on her second ACL tear. The last of which was to widen the notch where her ACL sits.
The doctor who performed the surgeries also did Tiger Woods’ reconstructive knee surgery in 2008.
Ah You Dias then tore the MCL in her first game back in 2014. Luckily, she only missed six games and went on to earn All-CCC honors. She was also the Freshman of the Year. But she did so without her now husband Victor Dias, a junior running back at EO.
He served a two-year mission. They met in the sixth grade.
“We only got to talk every Monday for a couple hours and it was really hard because he had been there for me from the beginning,” Ah You Dias said. “I remember one time in the locker room during my freshman year, we had just gotten off of practice and I rushed over to my phone to see if I had missed him. I did and I just started crying.”
But that pain paled in comparison to what she experienced a year later.
A week before her sophomore campaign was set to begin, Ah You Dias tore her ACL for the third time in practice while trying to catch a wild pass. It was her right knee this time around.
“I remember as soon as I went down, I yelled, ‘It’s over, I’m done,’” Ah You Dias said. “Coach told me to stay positive, you don’t know. I think I snapped back and said, ‘It’s my third one, I think I know.’”
TURNING THE CORNER
Ah You Dias didn’t go to practice the following week.
She spent the better part of the next two weeks burying her head in a pillow. Ah You Dias also wasn’t eating or sleeping at night.
“I wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around for those first two weeks,” Ah You Dias said. “It was the most emotional I’ve ever been. I remember for the first time in a long time I wasn’t happy.”
Even her mother, Jennifer, and Weissenfluh thought she may be done.
Nevertheless, Ah You Dias bounced back one final time.
She was an All-CCC first and a second team NAIA All-American in her first year back. That was only just the beginning. Ah You Dias was named the CCC Player of the Year and became the first player in program history selected as a first team All-American last season.
“It’s very debilitating to have a boot, a brace, a cast, a wheelchair, surgeries and having your knee scoped and scraped,” Victor Dias said. “So it really speaks about her love for the game. To most people, maybe all the hard work, the time and the investment only to have the results be heartbreak, injury, and physical and mental pain wouldn’t be worth it, but that’s how important basketball is to her.
“It’s been a fight, but I think she can claim victory over those demons for sure.”
Despite graduating with a degree in psychology last June, Ah You Dias elected to return for her sixth year. However, there was a caveat.
She had to sit out the first nine games of the season due to eligibility reasons. A player can only compete for 15 terms. Ah You Dias’ injuries had consumed 14 terms. So in order to play in conference and postseason games, she had to wait until the start of the winter term.
Her first game was on Dec. 15 against Northwest Christian University. She recorded a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds in the 74-61 win.
The recently turned 24-year-old has notched six more double-doubles, while scoring in double figures in her 14 games and counting since. She’s also reached 20 or more points eight times.
On Friday, Ah You Dias tallied a season-high 45 points and 17 rebounds in a 94-91 double overtime win over Northwest University. She went 15 of 28 from the field, 5 of 8 from 3-point range and 10 of 11 from the free throw line to break the school record for the most points in a single game. The previous record of 42 had stood for 42 years.
It’s resulted in Ah You Dias nearly averaging a double-double for the season. She’s currently the third leading scorer at 22.7 points per game and the eighth leading rebounder with 9.9 boards per game in NAIA Division II.
The Mountaineers, who have won 44 conference and 41 home games in a row, are unbeaten with her in the starting lineup this season.
“We wouldn’t be where we’re at right now without Maya,” senior guard Maren Herrud said. “She is not only a great leader and player, but a true inspiration to everyone on this team.
“People probably think she’s crazy for coming back and coming back and coming back after she’s been hurt countless times. But she’s never complained once. She’s the definition of doing things the right way.”
Ah You Dias has already been told she will likely need total knee replacement surgery one day.
And she probably won’t know a day without pain.
But Ah You Dias is “absolutely” OK with it. She has no intention of slowing down anytime soon for that matter.
There is still at least more than a month left in the season. Ah You Dias could even be looking beyond that. She didn’t rule out the possibility of playing professionally in the future.
Bad knees and all.
“I’ve never once regretted not going for it and taking the chance to play again,” Ah You Dias said. “It’s honestly taught me, as cliche as it sounds, you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it and put the work in. So it’s made all the accolades I have received since, even more rewarding because my family, teammates and coaches never gave up on me either.”
Away From Home is a new series spotlighting former Treasure Valley high school stars who elected to continue playing outside the area. Have a suggestion? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.