Walking on the court for the opening tap as a starter in the first game of his senior season, that was something special for Danny Moeller.

But then, everything related to Eastern varsity basketball has extra meaning for Moeller - the practices, the bus trips, the time in the locker room with his teammates.

"When it gets taken away from you, it makes you realize how much you love it," Moeller said. "I'm always telling myself, 'How did you feel last year, when you couldn't play? How much did you want to play?'

"It makes me appreciate everything."

Moeller is one of the feel-good stories of the early part of the South Jersey basketball season.

The 6-foot guard scored 17 points in a 70-57 victory over Timber Creek in the season opener on Friday night and scored seven in a 59-41 loss to Camden on Monday night.

He has become a key player for the Vikings by overcoming a severe knee injury that cost him most of his junior year and put his career in jeopardy.

"There were a lot of people telling me I would never play again," Moeller said. "Or that I would never be the same again.

"I looked for the positive. My mom (Nancy) was always positive, always telling me I could come back."

Moeller injured his right knee during an AAU game in April, 2014. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament and his medial collateral ligament.

"I knew it was bad," Moeller said. "I couldn't get up for five minutes, but it seemed like it was OK. The next day, when I tried to get out of bed, the pain was extraordinary."

About three weeks later, Moeller underwent reconstructive surgery, with doctors taking a part of the muscle in his hamstring to repair his ACL.

"They were telling me nine to 12 months for recovery," Moeller said. "I knew that meant my junior year was in trouble."

He certainly wasn't in the plans of Eastern coach Kevin Crawford, who took over the program before last season and didn't know what to make of the skinny kid who wasn't healthy enough to earn a varsity uniform as an 11th grader.

"Coach Crawford had never seen me play when I was healthy," Moeller said. "It was kind of tough for me to get into the program, to feel like I was part of it.

Crawford said he was impressed by Moeller's attitude last season and by his work ethic last summer.

"He never missed anything all summer," Crawford said. "He was the first one there and the last to leave.

"He's the kind of kid you love to have on your team - hard worker, great kid from a great family. He's worked to make himself into a nice player."

Moeller said his knee "feels 100 percent" and that he is playing without fear of another injury.

Moeller hopes to play in college and has been in contact with coaches from Stockton and the College of New Jersey. He plans to "make the most" of his senior season, especially since there were times when he wondered if he would ever take the court for the Vikings again.

"I don't take anything for granted," Moeller said. "It's my senior year and I'm out here. It's so much fun. I know I have to give it my all."

@PhilAnastasia

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