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Ice Brady’s injury the latest “freak thing” to happen to UConn women’s basketball

Geno Auriemma believes the Huskies’ string of injuries over the last year is just a matter of bad luck.

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma addresses his team before practice on Friday afternoon.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn women’s basketball suffered yet another significant injury when Ice Brady dislocated the patella in her right knee last week and subsequently underwent surgery on Tuesday, which will force her to miss the entire 2022-23 season. On Friday, Geno Auriemma provided more details about what happened to the freshman.

“No contact, nobody near her,” the coach. “Not even like land (from jumping) and something happens. Just your foot slips and then you land the wrong way.”

While injuries are always devastating, Brady’s hit the team particularly hard.

“Everybody was just really disappointed for for Ice because she had worked really, really hard and she had made so much progress and fit in so easily into what we were doing —offensively, defensively,” Auriemma said.

Last season, the Huskies dealt with a slew of ailments both major and minor. Aubrey Griffin missed the entire year with leg, ankle and back injuries and eventually underwent back surgery in January. Paige Bueckers went down for 19 games with a tibial plateau fracture and torn meniscus that resulted from a non-contact knee injury. Azzi Fudd missed 11 games with what Auriemma termed a “stress reaction” in her foot. Nika Mühl sat out three games (though she was sidelined for over a month) with a foot issue of her own.

This past summer, Bueckers tore her ACL during a pick-up game and will miss the entire upcoming campaign. Now, Brady is out for the year with the dislocated patella. It’s been a brutal stretch for the Huskies — one that even Auriemma struggles to make sense of.

“You just keeps seeing weird things that make you shake your head and wonder what’s the limit on weird things you can see,” Auriemma said in regard to Brady.

“I think we’re getting punished for the 10, 15 years where nothing happened (injury-wise) and it’s almost like, now it’s our turn,” he added later. “Again, they’re all just freak things that happen — you can’t explain why.”

The coach threw out a couple theories — specialization in high school leads to players only focusing one sport and never having an offseason to let their bodies recover; players are more likely to come to college with pre-existing injuries — but shot down the idea that it’s a strength and conditioning problem.

“Athletic trainers all over the country, or strength and conditioning coaches, do more preventive stuff than has ever been done anytime in the history of this game,” he said. “You look around and everybody’s got to deal with something. So it’s got to be bigger than that.”

“There’s a dilemma that you have as a coach and as a strength and conditioning person. If you under-train, you’re risking the chance of an injury. If you over-train you’re risking the chance of an injury,” he added. “Finding that sweet spot, I don’t think it’s scientific. It’s luck.”

The only other time that UConn has suffered a similar rash of injuries came in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Sue Bird (ACL), Nykesha Sales (Achilles), Shea Ralph (ACL) and Svetlana Abrosimova (foot) — to name just a few — all went down for the season at various points. Those injuries likely cost the Huskies a national championship or two, but Auriemma admitted those years don’t even compare to what the Huskies have dealt with over the past 12 months.

“It’s affecting more people,” he said. “That’s the biggest difference.”

At least back then, Auriemma felt he could come to grips with those injuries. He doesn’t believe that’s the case anymore.

“I can see if somebody’s running down the court and somebody whacks them and you go, ‘Oh boy, that doesn’t look good,’” he said. “But some of the stuff that that you’re seeing — it just doesn’t make sense.”