It's the three-letter abbreviation no athlete wants to hear during an injury diagnosis.

ACL.

It's the all-too-common term for anterior cruciate ligament, and if an athlete tears one, it becomes one of the most physically and mentally demanding tasks to recover from it.

Around a year ago, Temple guard Alliya Butts was looking forward to starting a senior season that would cap an outstanding career on North Broad Street. Butts was a three-time All-American Athletic Conference and All-Big 5 selection. She was the Owls' all-time record holder for three-pointers made and eighth on Temple's all-time scoring list.

The Owls had made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons in 2017 and were looking strong for another appearance.

Then it happened.

Butts tore her ACL. The injury cost her the 2017-18 season and set forth an extensive rehabilitation agenda. Butts, who is from Holy Cross in South Jersey, graduated with a degree in communications in the spring but decided to return to the basketball program as a graduate student.

"It was just frustration," said Butts, who averaged 15.5 points in 2016-17 and has made 236 career three-pointers. "There was a lot of uncertainty.

"I just couldn't let it end like that on such a bad note. I came back to finish my career at Temple on a good note. I'm feeling good but still trying to get my leg fully back. It's just working hard every day and trying to get better."

There are no blessings in disguise about an injury that can sometimes take more than a year from which to recover. However, Temple, which finished a disappointing 12-19 after three consecutive winning seasons, does have a graduate student with 92 career starts on a roster that features one senior, two juniors, and 10 underclassmen.

Coming back as an experienced player to help guide a young team was something Owls coach Tonya Cardoza and her staff worked hard to sell Butts on.

"We had to find a way to put a positive spin on the injury for Alliya," Cardoza said. "It was devastating for her and we had to let her know that if she wanted to come back, there was something to look forward to.

"Now, having her is great. We're just an extremely young team, and [Butts'] leadership and experience are really going to help us.

"Our players have someone to lean on who knows how to win."

Cardoza said she realizes that Butts is still recovering. "I'm hoping by December she'll be 85 percent, because an 85 percent Alliya is still one of the better players in AAC," the coach said.

The other coaches in the AAC agree as Butts, along with sophomore teammate Mia Davis, was named to the preseason all-conference second team. With 1,481 career points, Butts has averaged 493 a season. With 218 points, she will move into fourth on Temple's all-time scoring list. With 319 points, she will become the Owls' fourth 1,800-point scorer.

If Butts gets 410 points, she will finish her career trailing only Marilyn Stephens (2,194) on that scoring list.

"I don't feel like my role ever really changed with my teammates, because last year I was always talking to my teammates," Butts said.  "Coming back onto the court, I just tried to pick up where I left off.

"I've had a great three years playing for Temple," she said. "Unfortunately, I got hurt in my senior year. But now I have a chance to still have that fourth year and end things in a great way. I've seen it and done it, and hopefully, I can pass that experience along to younger players and help us win."