MISSOULA — Sammy Fatkin remembers where she was, and what she was doing, when she got the news that her college basketball career wasn't over just yet.
"I was at the gym actually, and I got back to my phone and I had like five missed calls from (Montana Lady Griz head coach) Brian (Holsinger), and so I kind of started freaking out," Fatkin recalled. "I was scared to call him back because I didn't know if it was going to be good or bad news, but then he told me and obviously just wouldn't miss it. Wanted to come back for sure."
A fitting place to be for Fatkin, who received an extension from the NCAA last spring for one more season.
During her wait, it was about staying grounded until she got the news, good or bad.
"I think every part of my journey has been kind of a rollercoaster, so I think just holding on to every second has just made me gain a lot of perspective and be grateful for every opportunity," Fatkin said. "I would spend as many years as I possibly could here so getting another shot was a blessing.
"I think just being hopeful for whatever was meant to be, would be, and trusting that whatever decision was made would be the right one, and so just waiting for that opportunity, but trying to stay equal and not getting my hopes up too much because, like I said, I would spend as many years here as I possibly could, so just staying kind of level-headed about it until I knew for sure and then make a decision from that point."
Fatkin's career has been every bit the rollercoaster she described it as, making it almost fitting that her final year came with uncertainty.
After starting her college basketball career at Arizona, Fatkin transferred to UM in 2018, but left the program midway through the 2019-20 campaign, then took a year off, before she rejoined the Lady Griz a year ago.
But after last year concluded, it was assumed Fatkin was done, but she found out she might get one more year, and to her it was a no-brainer.
"My journey before the last two years, I gained a lot of perspective and it's really genuinely special here," Fatkin said. "Just finally finding the right culture and the right fit with the right people. I think the biggest part is the people and so spending as much time in this environment is just a blessing."
Fatkin's initial return to Montana was a surprise, but she picked up immediately with a positive impact. But last year, she was the team's leading scorer before an injury halfway through conference play cost her nine games down the stretch.
Eventually, she returned in UM's final two contests, but it was another blow of adversity dealt to her.
"I'm just really thankful for every step," Fatkin said. "I think the hard part is you obviously feel highs and lows, but even though the lows occurred, being a part of this team and this group over the last two years has made all of it worth it.
"Patience and a lot of perspective gaining. I think rollercoaster is the perfect word for it, a lot of ups and downs, and I think I've grown a lot, but really just finding the right people, and so thankful for Brian and giving me this opportunity and being in this environment, it's made it all worth it."
This season, the Lady Griz couldn't have been happier to get Fatkin back.
She's currently second on the team in scoring at 12.2 points per game and is averaging a career-high in rebounds per game at 5.6 and assists at 2.5. She has improved as a threat on defense.
This comes as UM (13-12, 9-5 Big Sky Conference) gets set for a rematch with Montana State (18-8, 11-3) on Saturday in Bozeman. The Bobcats defeated the Lady Griz in Missoula on Jan. 21.
Her impact, and perseverance through a winding career, have UM high in the Big Sky standings after winning five of their last six games, with the conference tournament right around the corner, and with Fatkin also having a feeling of gratitude.
"Honestly, I think the word that always comes to mind is a blessing," Fatkin said. "There's been a lot of ups and downs, lot of adversity but everything about it has been completely worth it and I'm just so thankful for my time here and just being part of the legacy that's here, the community, being a part of something that's so much bigger than myself and just getting involved in that really becoming a part of it has been just amazing. It's something I'll never forget and something I'll never not want to be a part of."