Junior guard Brianna Banks had not played in a game since tearing the ACL in her right knee at St. John’s Feb. 2. It was only Wednesday when she was fully cleared, meaning she had participated in only two full practices before taking the floor tonight against Division II Gannon in UConn’s exhibition opener at Gampel Pavilion.
There was no telling how long Banks would be able to play or what she would be able to accomplish. She set the tone immediately by diving for a loose a ball at the first defensive end.
Playing with exceptional energy for 21 minutes in a 101-35 win, Banks walked away feeling good about her return.
“I felt I did pretty good for my first day back,’’ Banks said. “I was tired. Extremely tired. But after I kept playing it got a little bit easier every time I stepped on the court.
“I didn’t really have a goal in this game. My goal was just to go out and give it all I had, and feel pleased when I stepped off the court tonight and have my teammates be pleased with my performance. I was (pleased). I felt like I hustled the whole time and gave my teammates some good passes and they were looking out for me too. So it was just fun and I’m glad I got to play tonight.’’
Banks finished with six points (2-of-4 FG), six rebounds and two assists. She did not commit turnover, playing nine minutes in the first half and 12 in the second half.
“You don’t know what you’re going to get early on,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “In practice she’s been really good and then she’s struggled at times. And her struggles haven’t necessarily been physical. They’ve been mental. That’s what happens when you haven’t played in a long time. You haven’t had to make any decisions. You just go and you rehab. She played tonight pretty much the way she’s been practicing. She did a whole bunch of good things. She did a couple things she’s rusty from. All in all, I thought it was pretty good.’’
“She’s another one that I think gained a lot of confidence last year. Even though she got hurt, I think before that injury she had gotten to the point where she knew she could contribute. She knew there were some things she could do. And that’s carried over. And that’s been really good to see, that her attitude has been great.’’