Junior All-American Bria Hartley will not play in Sunday’s season opener against the College of Charleston at Gampel Pavilion. She has missed nearly a month of practice due to a high grade sprain and a partial ligament tear in her left ankle.
Hartley initially sustained the injury against Hungary in the quarterfinals of the 3×3 World Championship for Women in Athens, Greece Aug. 25. But instead of resting the ankle, she continued to play before being shut down days after practice officially began Oct. 13.
“It’s frustrating, but at the same time it is a long season and you don’t want it to get worse,’’ Hartley said. “So you just want to make sure it’s fully healed. I don’t really want it to be like a nagging injury all season.
“It definitely feels better from when I first realized I was hurting really bad. It’s probably like 70 percent almost. I’m doing a lot of stuff in the pool, doing a lot of stuff on the bike. It’s helping a little bit.’’
Hartley was initially told by the UConn medical staff that she would miss anywhere from two to four games. She will not play at No. 15 Texas A&M Nov. 18. Right now the target date for her return is Nov. 22 against Wake Forest at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“She said it feels better,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “She’s missed a month now. So I would say right now what’s realistic is that she’s going to need at least a week, if not more, of practice before she’s a hundred percent, like ready to practice and ready to play. So in my mind I’m thinking, `OK, some time after Texas A&M.’ Because it would difficult to come back next week. We only have a couple days of practice, travel and then say, `OK, you’re ready to play.’ So I’m not counting her Sunday. In my mind, I’m not counting on her at Texas A&M. After that I’d be a little bit surprised if she wasn’t ready for the Paradise Jam.’’
Hartley is now permitted to remove her protective boot daily for three hours. She shot free throws on the side during practice today at Gampel Pavilion. That was the extent of her workload as she not yet allowed to jump on her ankle.
“There’s a little pain in it still,’’ Hartley said. “But not as much as when I’m moving. But the ligament was torn so it’s repairing itself. The doctor (Tom Trojian) looked at it before we played (Wednesday) night (against Holy Family). The range of motion is a lot better. The swelling went down a lot too.
“Right now I’m just working on getting better. That’s the only thing I can do. (Team athletic trainer) Rosemary (Ragle) has me doing a bunch of workouts and stuff, trying to stay in shape a little bit, get my stamina up. So that’s really all I’m concentrating on.’’
Hartley hopes to return to practice as soon as possible. And she said that she is not overly concerned that the extended layoff will set her back much.
“I think anytime you’re missing things it’ll set you back a little bit,’’ Hartley said. “But I try to pay attention as much as possible so when I go in there it’s not as bad. And I know Coach will help me out along the way when I’m coming back. So that’ll be good.
“I just want to do little things at a time, just make sure I’m not in pain or anything. Practice … As soon as I can, to be honest. It sucks sitting out. It sucks watching. So soon I’ll be back in there at least doing a little bit of court stuff, maybe doing stuff with Rosie on the side.’’
Auriemma said he has not yet made up his mind as to who will join Stefanie Dolson, Kelly Faris and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis in the starting lineup Sunday. Freshmen Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart started Wednesday’s exhibition finale against Holy Family.
Auriemma said he also might start Caroline Doty and freshman Morgan Tuck.
“I’ve had two exhibition games to try to get myself involved in there,’’ Jefferson said. “But you have to have confidence. So if he calls on me I’ll be ready at any point in time.’’