Remember when Byron's Ayoka Lee was the talk of women's college basketball for a moment two seasons ago?

Caitlin Clark and Paige Bueckers had to make room for a 6-6 center from a small town near Rochester who broke the NCAA's single-game scoring mark with 61 points for Kansas State — topping the previous record of 60 that had been tied by Minnesota's Rachel Banham in 2016.

Lee was far from a one-hit wonder. She was an All-America and led her team to the NCAA tournament.

After deciding not to enter the 2022 WNBA Draft, Lee was primed to return last season as one of the brightest stars in her sport. But a knee injury — the second of her career — ended her senior year before it started.

Instead of punishing defenders in the paint, the top post player arguably in the country had to spend her days grinding through rehab and watching K-State struggle to compete in the Big 12 on its way to the NIT.

Lee leaned on support from her teammates and family, including younger brother Ahjany, who plays basketball for St. Thomas. She thought a lot about being a role model for him.

"Going through the rehab from a really big surgery last year was definitely tough," Lee said. "So, it was really great to have my family support. I wanted to show him what it looks like to come back from hard things and still be able to do well."

Suddenly, nobody's talking much about Ayoka Lee nationally. She's OK with that.

Entering this week, she was quietly averaging 19 points and nearly eight rebounds and two blocks for the No. 12-ranked Wildcats (9-1).

K-State's only loss was one of two games against Iowa. Yes, it's weird but true. They're in different conferences but played twice already. The only loss for the No. 4 Hawkeyes so far this season was to the Wildcats in Iowa City when Lee outplayed Clark with 22 points and 12 rebounds on Nov. 16.

Last Saturday, Lee had 28 points and nine rebounds in an 84-56 win against Missouri. That was the closest she's been yet to scoring big like her old self against a Power Five foe. But sitting out last season also showed her she didn't have to score 30, 40 or 60 points to dominate the game.

"I started to see how important the little things are," Lee said.

A Minnesota Miss Basketball candidate in 2018, Lee suffered a torn ACL late in her senior season for Byron. She was discouraged not being able to play her first year in college, but she eventually made her mark.

After recovering from her first knee injury, Lee was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year and earned first-team all-league honors in 2019-20.

"That redshirt year was definitely tough, but it also set me up to be as successful as I have been," Lee said. "I don't think adversity is new to me in basketball."

Other college women standouts from Minnesota have been bitten by the injury bug recently. Bueckers, a former Hopkins star, missed last season with a knee injury, but she's back playing at a high level. Duluth native Gianna Kneepkens, Utah's second-leading scorer, was sidelined for the season with a foot injury earlier this month.

Having missed two seasons with injuries in her career, Lee doesn't take for granted what it means to play college basketball and be a prominent player.

"Sitting out, I was able to have a huge sense of gratitude," Lee said. "There continues to be growing opportunities in college basketball [for attention], especially on the women's side. I hope I've done a good job of appreciating all of it."

Fuller's Five

Five Minnesotans who stood out:

Amaya Battle, Gophers

The sophomore guard had 15 points, including two free throws after her steal with three seconds left to secure the Gophers' 60-58 Big Ten-opening victory vs. Purdue.

Paige Bueckers, UConn

The former Hopkins star had 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting in a victory vs. No. 24 North Carolina, which also helped her reach 1,000 points in her college career.

Cash Chavis, Park Center

Washington recruit had 23 points for the Pirates in the Breakdown Classic victory vs. Lakeville North, highlighted by a buzzer-beating floater.

Gabe Madsen, Utah

Former Rochester Mayo star led the Utes with 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting from three-point range in an upset over undefeated rival BYU.

Jackson McAndrew, Wayzata

Creighton recruit and No. 1 player in the state's 2024 class erupted for 38 points in a win vs. Totino-Grace, capping his 22 second-half points with a buzzer-beating shot.

Statistically speaking

17 — Elijah Hawkins' Gopher record-breaking assist performance Tuesday vs. IUPUI, his third straight double figure assist game. Previous record was 16 by Ariel McDonald in 1994.

94 — Tied Division I modern-day record for largest margin of victory in North Dakota State's win against Oak Hills Christian, a small college in Bemidji.

4 — Number of teams ranked nationally from Minnesota in the NABC Division II top 25 poll this week: Moorhead (No. 2), Minnesota State (3), Duluth (21) and Winona State (24).

50 — Scoring in back-to-back games for Richfield's C.J. Armstrong with 50 points vs. Two Rivers and 52 points vs. St. Cloud Tech in his first two games.

1,500 — Career blocks for Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert reached last week after consecutive 20-rebound performances.

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Basketball Across Minnesota will be published weekly on Don't be a stranger on X after reading, as chatting about these stories makes them even more fun to share. Thanks, Marcus (@Marcus_R_Fuller)