Rachel Banham is eligible for a medical hardship waiver that would allow her to play for the Gophers women’s basketball team next season, a University of Minnesota spokesperson said Friday.
Banham, named the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, tore her right anterior cruciate ligament in the team’s 10th game of the season — at North Dakota on Wednesday — and the Gophers announced the next day that she would miss the rest of the season.
The senior point guard was averaging 18.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists this season. She is 107 points away from Lindsay Whalen’s school record for career points.
“This is a devastating injury for Rachel and a great loss for our team,” first-year coach Marlene Stollings said in a statement Friday. “Rachel has been a joy to coach and has put in the work to elevate her game to yet another level this season.”
Banham, who also partly tore the medial collateral ligament in the same knee, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, just made the games-played threshold for a possible fifth season.
NCAA bylaws state that a player can compete in only 30 percent or less of a team’s scheduled games to be eligible for a medical waiver, which allows for another full season. Including the Big Ten tournament — which counts as only one game — Minnesota has 31 games on its schedule. Thirty percent of 31 is 9.3, but since the NCAA rounds up decimals, Banham is allowed as many as 10 games — which she played.
To receive the waiver, Minnesota needs to submit documentation and a request but wouldn’t do so until the end of the season. Banham is mulling her options, the university spokesperson said.
The WNBA, whose season starts in early June, is one. It generally takes six to nine months to recover from a torn ACL so, if Banham makes a team, she might have to miss some early games.