Welcome to the UConn WBB Weekly, a recap of everything that happened in the world of UConn women’s basketball over the past week.
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From The UConn Blog:
- Emergency Podcast: Paige Bueckers is out for the year with a torn ACL
- Paige Bueckers undergoes successful knee surgery to repair torn ACL
Last week’s Weekly:
A history of season-ending injuries at UConn
Before last season, UConn women’s basketball had experienced a stretch of relatively good health. Between 2014-2021, not a single player went down with a season-ending injury and few others even missed significant time. The most notable ailment in that time was Katie Lou Samuelson’s lingering foot injury in 2017-18.
Then the pendulum swung in the opposite direction. After nearly a decade of keeping the injury bug at bay, UConn endured a season from hell in which all but two players on the roster missed at least one game due to an injury or illness. Paige Bueckers (knee), Azzi Fudd (foot), and Nika Mühl (foot) all missed significant time throughout the campaign while Aubrey Griffin never even suited up. It got worse last week when the team announced Bueckers tore her left ACL and will miss the entire 2022-23 season.
Unfortunately, this isn’t uncharted territory for the program. Injuries will always be a part of the game, but the Huskies endured a brutal series of losses in the late ‘90s and early 2000s that almost certainly cost them multiple championships and dealt with another set of them roughly a decade later.
With all that’s happened in the past calendar year, let’s put UConn’s current injury problems in a historical context.
Doty was the last UConn player to tear her ACL prior to Bueckers and she did it three times. The first occasion came while she was still in high school, though she had the operation done at UConn Health and recovered in time to start her freshman year in 2008-09. Doty tore the same ACL in a Jan. 17, 2009 matchup against Syracuse and missed the remainder of the season.
After a healthy 2009-10 campaign, she tore up the same knee for the third time while working out in Aug. 2010 and missed the entire 2010-11 season. Doty made a full recovery, played in 75 games over her final two years in Storrs, and earned her third ring as a senior in 2013.
Eight games into Greene’s junior season, she drove to the basket against South Carolina, took an awkward step after being bumped by a defender, and tore her right ACL. Though she still played an important role in UConn’s 2009 and 2010 championship squads, she never regained her sophomore year form when she averaged 12.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
One month after Greene went down, Thomas’ UConn career came to an abrupt end after a torn ACL in her right knee, also against Syracuse. Up until then, the Huskies were the only undefeated team left in the country and had won every game by double-digits prior to squeaking by Syracuse by four following Thomas’ injury. Without two key contributors, UConn fell in the Final Four to Stanford.
Like Doty, Wolff was snake-bit early in her UConn career. She played in 10 games as a freshman before a stress fracture in her left foot sidelined her for the remainder of the year. Then as a sophomore, she tore her ACL just three games in. Those injuries prevented Wolff from reaching her full potential and she decided to graduate to begin a new phase of her life after her redshirt junior season.
Nobody had worse injury luck at UConn than Shea Ralph. In the 1997 NCAA Tournament opener against Lehigh, the Big East Freshman of the Year tore the ACL in her right knee for the first time and without her, the Huskies suffered their first defeat of the season to Tennessee in the Elite Eight.
Five months later, Ralph re-tore the ligament in a pickup game and had to miss the entire 1997-98 campaign. After that, it looked like she might’ve put the injury issues behind her with three seasons until a third ACL tear — this time in the left knee — ended her UConn career in the 2001 Big East Tournament championship game.
At this point, Bird’s torn ACL during her freshman year at UConn has become little more than a footnote during her illustrious career. The injury occurred eight games into the 1998-99 season during practice on a routine play.
“It didn’t look any different than what she has probably done 1,000 times in her basketball career,” Geno Auriemma said at the time.
When it happened, Bird didn’t expect it to be the end of her season.
“I felt a little pain, but nothing excruciating. I got up and walked off the court. I thought I would be fine, but the MRI showed I had torn my ACL,” she said.
Bird recovered in time for her sophomore season and helped the Huskies to their third national title in 2000 while picking up the Nancy Lieberman Award along the way. The rest is history.
Though not a season-ending injury, Moore tore her ACL in the 2004 national championship game against Tennessee but managed to play through the injury. It was only after an MRI postgame that she received the diagnosis but she still recovered in time to play in 33 games the next season.
Bueckers’ injury is just the fourth time in program history that an All-American has suffered a season-ending injury, joining Ralph, Svetlana Abrosimova, and Nykesha Sales. Sue Bird and Morgan Tuck had not earned All-American honors prior to their knee injuries.
UConn’s title hopes in 2001 took a major hit when Abrosimova injured her left foot in a February meeting with arch-rival Tennessee. She tried to play through the pain and at first, there was hope that she only suffered a sprain. However, an MRI revealed that Abrosimova tore a ligament and needed surgery, which put an end to her UConn career. The loss of Abrosimova combined with Ralph’s torn ACL one month later sank the championship hopes of arguably the most talented team in program history.
There may be no injury in program history more well-known than Sales’ torn Achilles in the penultimate game of the 1997-98 regular season. Not only did the rupture put an end to her UConn career, but it also left her one point shy of the program’s all-time points record. To help her reach the mark, Geno Auriemma made a gentleman’s agreement with Villanova coach Harry Perretta to allow Sales to score an uncontested basket in order to break the record. In return, the Wildcats would score on the other end and the game could begin in earnest at 2-2.
The move created a media firestorm — the Hartford Courant’s Jeff Jacobs wrote “it was a sad, contrived joke” while others in print, on television, and radio blasted Auriemma and Sales — so fierce that Sales eventually asked Auriemma if the points could taken away.
Without Sales, UConn fell to NC State in the Elite Eight.
The most recent Husky to miss a full season, Griffin was hampered by a high ankle sprain in preseason and then dealt with a leg injury before her back acted up. She made a few attempts to return but was ultimately shut down and had surgery to repair a disc in her back in January.
A knee issue hampered Tuck for most of her sophomore season in 2013-14. She tried arthroscopic surgery, rehab, and rest before ultimately deciding to undergo a more major surgery in January. Tuck mostly stayed healthy over her final two years in Storrs but retired from basketball at age 26 due to chronic knee problems.
In UConn’s fifth game of the 2000-01 season, Battle dove for a loose ball when her arm got caught under a Miami player. She left the game and was eventually diagnosed with a torn UCL — typically an injury suffered by pitchers in baseball. Battle sat out the remainder of the year in order to recoup the extra year of eligibility with a medical redshirt.
As a sophomore, Valley dealt with plantar fasciitis in both her feet and sat out the final 22 games of the 2001-02 season.
Best of social media
There’s only one correct answer:
A couple of future teammates hung out last weekend:
Azzi Fudd was a coach at Steph Curry’s camp this past weekend and got to meet up with her future teammate, Ashlynn Shade pic.twitter.com/BneOTRtiyj— Daniel Connolly (@DanielVConnolly) August 9, 2022
Paige Bueckers is in Gatorade’s latest commercial:
DC was Storrs South on Sunday:
There’s a UConn reunion in DC tonight pic.twitter.com/bXrTkJtkrS— Daniel Connolly (@DanielVConnolly) August 8, 2022
An adorable moment in Sue Bird’s final regular season game: