WEST HARTFORD - Mikayla Coombs is looking forward to a fresh start after a premature end to her freshman season with the UConn women’s basketball team.
In March, a blood clot in her leg was discovered and the announcement was made she would not play in the NCAA Tournament. Three months later, the Buford, Georgia, native has been cleared for most activities but not for any contact.
“I feel good, still in the recovery process trying to get healthy,” Coombs said on Monday. “I’ve been training with the team so that’s been good. I’m able to do weight-room workouts and basketball workouts, just nothing like defensive drills where there is contact.
“It hit me hard when it first happened because for the first two months I couldn’t do much. That’s the problem with blood clots. I was able to go home for a little while last month and started training harder. I knew when I got back here for the summer session we would take it up another notch. This summer has helped us prepare. I think everyone feels they’re in good shape.”
Coombs is hopeful she’ll have no restrictions soon, though she said that depends on her progress and the medication that she’s taking.
The 5-foot-8 guard is ready to show the Huskies’ coaching staff what she can add.
“I’m extremely impatient,” Coombs said. “It’s hard having an injury where there’s no telling the recovery process - you don’t know if it’s going to go away right away or not. I’ve learned patience within myself. Everything happens for a reason. Maybe that I had to learn patience is why this happened.”
Coombs has been down the injury road before. She missed her sophomore season at Wesleyan School after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in the first quarter of the first game. In her senior year, she was a McDonald’s All-American and led the Wolves to a state championship.
Her freshman year at UConn was trying. She had 28 points, 21 rebounds, 12 assists, and 17 steals in 168 minutes over 25 games. Every time she took a step up and was given the opportunity to work with the Huskies’ top guns, she seemed to take two steps back. Her final appearance was against Cincinnati in the AAC tournament semifinals.
“It was intense just trying to learn the way we do things here,” Coombs said. “The UConn way was something to adjust to. Finding my way was eye-opening.
“Coming back here from my time at home I just felt different. I feel more comfortable.”
With three of their top six players from last season now WNBA rookies - including starting guard Kia Nurse - coach Geno Auriemma is looking to fill those holes and there is opportunity to make an impact.
“To be honest, Coach is working hard and been laying it out there for the team,” Coombs said. “I’ve been focusing on the little things that I can do and fine tuning those things. I could have done a lot more defensively last year but I didn’t mentally put myself up to that challenge. I’ll be focusing on that. I’m working on getting to the basket more, not necessarily to score but just draw the defense and dish off.
“I was just overwhelmed my freshman year. Being relaxed will help me a lot. When you come here as a freshman you don’t know what to expect. Now I have a year under my belt and I know what to expect, I know what I have to do.”