Rachel Banham’s first WNBA season ended after 15 games when she could no longer play through the pain in her right knee.
The former Gophers All-America guard and fourth overall pick by the Connecticut Sun in the 2016 WNBA draft required surgery to repair a micro-fracture. Rehabilitation for the procedure is usually between four and six months.
Four months have passed since the surgery and Banham is able to run, jump and cut again, while rehabbing at her alma mater in Minneapolis. The Sun caught up with Banham this week for an update on her progress.
“I do [rehab] twice a week. It’s going super well. We’re doing running, cutting, jumping, everything. That’s really exciting for me,” Banham said. "I’ve been lifting and doing court stuff at The U every day. It’s been good.
"I don’t want to rush it. I want to do so much more and go so much harder, but I also have to be smart. It’s been really hard to be patient. I still have a long time until I get to come back to Connecticut and get back on the court. I can’t wait. When I get back there, I will be super excited.”
While many professional women’s basketball players compete in Europe during the WNBA offseason, Banham said her goal is to be “110 percent” for next summer’s WNBA season, but a progress report in December will tell her what the next step will be.
It helps that Banham has recovered from a major knee injury. Banham tore her ACL 10 games into the Gophers 2014-2015 season and would require surgery. She returned the next season and finished her college career as an All-America standout.
"No matter what, it all kind of stinks, but it definitely made it easier after doing the ACL,” Banham said in the Q&A. "I know what to expect from the rehab. Mentally, you know what to expect a little bit more. It’s going to be hard. You’re going to have your days. This process has moved a little bit faster, though, so that’s helped too.”
She also wrote in an online diary on BiProUSA.com "It’s really frustrating that I can’t play basketball for a few months, but … these rehab and workout sessions are all about getting my whole body stronger so that I can come back an even better player."
Banham expects to play through minor aches and pains throughout her career "But knowing that [my knee is] fixed and I can get stronger, I’m hoping I can just move forward and not have to worry about this ever again.”
She admitted rehab can be a grind, but the recent news that her college jersey will be retired has given her extra motivation.
“My alma mater is retiring my jersey in January,” she said. "It’s an unbelievable feeling to know that my jersey will hang in the rafters, next to the jerseys of women that I’ve idolized since I could hold a basketball in my hands."