By Carl Adamec
STORRS, Conn. — Brianna Banks was sure she could have helped the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team in its showdown with No. 1 Baylor a week ago.
It wasn’t like the pain the sophomore guard felt when she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee Feb. 2 at St. John’s, but she was hurting for her teammates after the 76-70 loss to the Bears.
“It is a lot harder to watch how hurt the team is and feel like you could’ve at least done something to make it better,” Banks said Monday. “I actually cried like I played.”
Banks will miss her seventh straight game Tuesday night when the third-ranked Huskies face Pittsburgh in Big East action at the XL Center in Hartford (7 p.m., SNY). She will have surgery to repair the ACL on March 14.
The Newnan, Ga., native was enjoying a solid second season here as UConn made the trip to Carnesecca Arena earlier this month. But midway through the first half she drove to the basket and collided with St. John’s Briana Brown and hit the floor. To add insult to injury she was called for an offensive foul.
She was helped off the floor by athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle and returned to the bench to watch the second half. The original diagnosis was a sprain. But an MRI taken the next day showed the ACL tear and she learned the extent of the injury from coach Geno Auriemma Feb. 4.
“I cried like any normal person would,” Banks said. “I think my mom took it harder than I did. She was like in a deep depression for a couple of days. If I go in a deep depression like my mom did it’s not going to do me any good, and I’ll take a step back. That’s not what I want.
“I feel like it’s my fault because I had Kelly Faris in the corner. I won’t forget it. I had Kelly in the corner. I should’ve dished it. If I would’ve dished it, I wouldn’t be here. So it’s my fault at the end of the day.”
Banks is working with Ragle to strengthen her leg prior to the surgery, which is scheduled for the Thursday before the start of UConn’s spring break so she will not have to struggle as much getting around campus to her classes.
“We tried to plan it out so that everything’s in her favor,” Auriemma said. “These things are out of your control and all you can do is handle it right way. But her mom and I talked, and we also know that graduating from UConn is her number one priority. Don’t let the basketball thing now define your life. She’s not playing basketball. So what? Now you’re not a student anymore? Now you’re not anything? You’re just a basketball player? So basketball’s over, but your whole other life has to go on until basketball comes back. Some kids don’t really understand that.
“But she’s been great. It’s an impossible situation to be in. But her attitude’s been great. She’s been pretty diligent being where she’s supposed to be when she’s supposed to be there. She doesn’t miss much out on the court. So she’s doing everything she can. The rest is out of her hands, but she’s doing her part.”
The usual recovery time from ACL surgery is at least six months. That would put Banks in line to return for preseason workouts for the 2013-14 campaign.
But for the next six weeks she’ll do what she can to support her teammates in their bid to win a Big East and national championship.
“It’s starting to get to me a little bit as the season starts to end,” Banks said. “But you have to grow. You can’t let it set you back or all this is pointless.”