Banham back after health scare and ready to 'go, go, go'

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 10, 2012 - 12:07 AM

The guard aims to improve on her stellar freshman season.

hide

Gophers point guard Rachel Banham

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The first emotion she felt was fear. When Rachel Banham woke up in the middle of the night this past July, gasping for breath through the searing pain in her chest, she worried she had a heart condition.

Tests showed that the Gophers sophomore had a blood clot in her lung, which could be treated with medication. But the relief of that diagnosis soon gave way to concern about whether Banham would be fully recovered by the start of basketball season. "At first, the doctor told me it would take three to six months,'' said the point guard, last season's Big Ten Freshman of the Year. "When you hear six months, you're like, 'That's halfway through the season!' I was so mad. That's the only thing I kept asking about.''

After being prohibited for 14 weeks from activities that involved physical contact, Banham got the all-clear on Oct. 23. She is not in peak condition for Saturday's season opener against Washington State at Williams Arena, nor did she get to work on everything she wanted to accomplish over the summer. But she will begin the next chapter in her Gophers career right on time, and for now, that's good enough.

Gophers coach Pam Borton said that even as Banham works to regain her fitness and timing, she remains the most vital cog in her team's offense. With a deeper and more versatile roster surrounding her, Banham expects to improve on a stellar rookie season in which she scored a team-high 16.1 points per game and led the Gophers in defensive rebounds and minutes played.

"I missed a chunk of time to work on getting better at some things, but I don't think it set me too far behind,'' said Banham, the only underclassman named to the preseason All-Big Ten team chosen by the league's coaches last month. "I still have the same goals for myself and the team. I want to be on the All-Big Ten first team and compete for Big Ten player of the year, and I want us to have a lot of wins and get to the NCAA tournament.

"Having to sit out was the worst. I just want to get going again and put all that behind me.''

While Borton noted that many players develop a deeper appreciation for the game after being sidelined with health issues, she can't imagine Banham loving basketball any more than she already did. Her enthusiasm, skills and instincts made her a natural leader even as a freshman, earning her the title of co-captain this season with junior Micaella Riche.

Borton anticipates that the confidence and experience gained through her heavy freshman workload will allow Banham's leadership to bloom further in her sophomore year. Her role in the offense will expand, as well, as Borton plans to occasionally move her to shooting guard to give her more opportunities to score. The coach also found a silver lining in Banham's illness: The knee pain that troubled her late last season was eased considerably by three months away from full-speed practices.

"She's always ready to go, but she plays better when she's fresh,'' said Borton, whose Gophers finished 19-17 last season and won the postseason Women's Basketball Invitational championship. "I'm sure she wanted to work on her game more, or get in the best shape of her life over the summertime. But I think she's really going to take a pounding this year, and maybe the extra rest helped her. She's feeling really, really good about where she is right now.''

Especially compared to where she was in July. The day after her 19th birthday, Banham experienced chest pains and saw a doctor, who found no evidence of heart trouble.

After waking up struggling to breathe, she went to the hospital. Banham spent a couple of days there -- with visits from Borton and her teammates -- as the clot was discovered and she began treatment. She took blood-thinning medication for three months and was forced to remain inactive for a time because of breathing difficulty and pain.

Once those symptoms disappeared, Banham was allowed to resume such noncontact workouts as weightlifting, running and solo drills. She was disappointed that she had to abandon one offseason goal -- solidifying her defense -- and frustrated by having to watch practice from the sidelines. When she returned, though, Banham quickly made up for lost time. She scored a team-high 22 points in the Gophers' exhibition opener, a victory over Concordia (St. Paul) played only eight days after she was cleared to practice, and a team-best 20 as the Gophers defeated Minnesota State Mankato.

"What she went through was scary,'' senior guard Leah Cotton said. "But she's definitely a fighter. She has such a positive attitude on the court; when things aren't going her way, she finds a way to make them go her way. And she came back hungry.''

Last year, Banham said, her first college games felt so challenging that she didn't know how she was going to adapt. She finished the season as a member of the All-Big Ten second team and all-freshman team and scored 580 points, third-most of any freshman in the country and the seventh-highest single-season total in Gophers history.

From the moment it ended, she couldn't wait to get back to work. The pent-up desire from her interrupted summer made her longing all the sharper, leaving Banham counting the days until Saturday's opener.

"When I'm playing now, I just want to go, go, go,'' she said. "Sometimes, I'm going too fast. I'm just really, really excited to be back.''

  • U WOMEN PREVIEW GOPHERS VS. WASHINGTON STATE

    Noon today • Williams Arena • No TV (1500-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
Toronto 110 FINAL
LA Clippers 98
Boston 88 FINAL
Washington 101
Orlando 102 FINAL
Charlotte 94
Memphis 103 FINAL
Miami 95
Indiana 110 FINAL
Brooklyn 85
New Orleans 100 FINAL
Chicago 107
Atlanta 90 FINAL
Milwaukee 85
Philadelphia 71 FINAL
Utah 88
New York 129 FINAL
Sacramento 135
Minnesota 97 FINAL
Golden State 110
NY Islanders 3 FINAL(SO)
Buffalo 4
Detroit 3 FINAL(OT)
Ottawa 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
New Jersey 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 3
Boston 2 FINAL
Columbus 6
Winnipeg 4 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 3
Washington 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Dallas 4 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Nashville 4
Anaheim 1 FINAL(SO)
Arizona 2
Chicago 5 FINAL
Colorado 2
Edmonton 1 FINAL
Calgary 4
San Jose 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 3
Indiana 87 FINAL
Georgetown 91
Maine 43 FINAL
Seton Hall 72
UNC-Wilmington 82 FINAL
Minnesota 108
Georgia State 61 FINAL
Green Bay 78
Jacksonville St 61 FINAL
Jacksonville 75
Kentucky 58 FINAL
Louisville 50
Northern Ky 55 FINAL
Northwestern 76
UAB 58 FINAL
North Carolina 89
IUPUI 55 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Santa Clara 60 FINAL
St Marys-CA 73
Oakland 56 FINAL
Maryland 72
Gonzaga 87 FINAL
BYU 80
Mercer 77 FINAL
Georgia 86
San Francisco 77 FINAL
Pacific 71
Wright State 55 FINAL
Ohio State 100
Presbyterian 65 FINAL
Virginia Tech 87
Brescia 42 FINAL
Western Ky 89
Tennessee St 46 FINAL
Tennessee 67
Kennesaw St 45 FINAL
Illinois 93
Colorado State 58 FINAL
New Mexico St 57
Portland 61 FINAL
San Diego 58
Wayland Baptist 63 FINAL
Utah State 75
Bristol University 59 FINAL
Weber State 109
Sacramento St 74 FINAL
Utah Valley U 49
Southern Utah 45 FINAL
UNLV 79
SD Christian 50 FINAL
San Diego St 72
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
SMU 45 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 96
UCF 64 FINAL
Houston 50
BYU 62 FINAL
Gonzaga 78
Pacific 92 FINAL
San Francisco 54
St Marys-CA 62 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
San Diego 87 FINAL
Portland 65
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

<
Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What's your favorite Gophers football uniform colors?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close