Lia Assimakopoulos

Paige Bueckers suffered tibial plateau fracture, may miss up to 2 months

David Butler II USA TODAY Sports

STORRS, Conn. — UConn star Paige Bueckers suffered a fracture just below her left knee and will be sidelined for up to two months, the school said Tuesday.

Last season’s women’s college basketball player of the year was dribbling up the court with under 40 seconds left in Sunday’s 73-54 victory over Notre Dame when she stumbled and came down awkwardly. She had to be carried off the court.

The school said an MRI and CT scan showed she suffered a tibial plateau fracture, which is a break of the tibia bone that extends into the knee joint. It has a recovery time estimated at between six and eight weeks.

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UConn coach Geno Auriemma said the school will not rush Bueckers back to the court.

“We’ve had players get injured in the past and my philosophy here is, I’m not interested in how fast we can get someone back; I’m interested in what’s best for them long term,” he said. “Every decision made will prioritize what’s best for Paige and her career. Everyone involved with this program will be there to support Paige through her healing process.”

Bueckers is averaging 21.2 points, 6.2 assists and 5.5 rebounds for No. 3 UConn.

Dr. Michael Miranda, the director of orthopedic trauma at Hartford Hospital, who is not treating Bueckers, described a tibial plateau fracture as the femur, or thigh bone, banging into the spongy top of the tibia, a bone in the lower leg, as the result of an acute stop.

“It gets pinched, very much like Styrofoam, and that’s the impaction injury that she has,” he said.

Skiing star Lindsey Vonn suffered a similar injury in 2016. Miranda said such injuries typically don’t require surgery and heal relatively quickly with proper rehabilitation.

“It sounds terrible, but she’s actually very lucky, because the rehab from this bony injury is a lot quicker than the rehab from an ACL (tear),” he said. “You hate to see an athlete injured in any way, but at the same time, an ACL versus an impaction injury to the tibial plateau, this is the much better injury.”

The Huskies (5-1) visit Georgia Tech on Thursday. They are also without freshman Azzi Fudd. The nation’s consensus top recruit last year is resting a stress injury to her right foot and is expected to be out at least two weeks.

Missing tennis player Peng Shuai known for grit

© Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Struggling to stay upright as suffocating heat and humidity drained her energy in the U.S. Open semifinals, Peng Shuai refused to give up.

She paused between points to clutch at her left thigh and put her weight on her racket as if it were a cane. She leaned against a wall and wiped away tears.

Helped off the court and diagnosed with heat stroke, doctors told her to quit. But Peng still came back for more. Six more points until she eventually collapsed to the ground and Caroline Wozniacki, her opponent in that 2014 match, came around the net to check on her.

Only then, with her body pushed to the absolute limit — maybe even beyond the limit — did Peng retire from the match that marked the pinnacle of her singles career.

Ultimately, she was taken away in a wheelchair.

For a player who overcame heart surgery at the age of 12, quitting doesn’t come lightly to the trailblazing tennis standout, who has disappeared after accusing a former top Chinese official of sexually assaulting her.

Her hard-earned grit and a unique playing style featuring two-handed grips on both forehands and backhands carried her to 23 tour-level doubles titles, including at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.

Introduced to tennis at the age of 8 by an uncle, the 35-year-old Peng is an admirer of John McEnroe and has a lucky cow on her tennis bag to honor her birth in a year of the ox.

She enjoys Chinese cuisine, reading, shopping and swimming and “considers herself quiet,” according to her WTA Tour bio.

When she reached the No. 1 ranking in doubles in February 2014, Peng became the first Chinese player — male or female — to reach the top spot in either singles or doubles.

Besides her two Grand Slam titles in doubles — both achieved with Taiwanese partner Hsieh Su-wei — Peng also reached the Australian Open final in 2017 with Andrea Hlavackova.

In singles, besides her U.S. Open semifinal appearance, Peng also won two titles — at Tianjin in 2016 and Nanchang in 2017 — and finished runner-up in seven tournaments.

Attempting to follow in the footsteps of Li Na, a fellow Chinese player and the first Grand Slam singles champion from Asia, Peng also reached the fourth round at Wimbledon three times in singles, the fourth round at the Australian Open twice and the third round at the French Open twice.

Her top ranking in singles was No. 14 in August 2011.

Peng played for China when her country hosted the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as well as at the 2012 London Games and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

She also won three medals when China hosted the Asian Games in Guangzhou in 2010 — gold in singles and the team event and bronze in doubles.

While not officially retired, she played her last match in Qatar in February 2020.

South Carolina’s Dawn Staley advocates for Black female coaches

© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Dawn Staley remembers when she was just beginning her coaching career when she’d look across the sideline and rarely see a Black female leading the opposing team.

It happens more often today, but Staley says not nearly enough.

“There is an influx of Black women getting an opportunity,” Staley said. “Black women are getting more chances to be the head honcho in their programs. I hope we continue to be successful.”

Pair of Black women will square off again Saturday when Staley’s top-ranked Gamecocks open play in the first-ever women’s Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas against Buffalo and Felisha Legette-Jack.

Staley, who recently signed a landmark $22.4 million, seven-year contract, said it’s simply a numbers game when looking at the demographics of who plays the sport compared to who gets gets the most opportunities to lead them.

“There should be a fair amount of Black women getting a chance because of who we serve,” Staley said. “We serve a lot of players who are Black. I don’t want people thinking I’m playing the race card. I’ve been in the game a long time, I’ve seen big jobs go to people that deserved an opportunity. ”

There are 12 Black women head coaches at Power Five schools this season, including two new ones out of nine openings: Marisa Moseley at Wisconsin and Johnnie Harris at Auburn.

Overall, 14 of 39 openings at Power Five schools this offseason went to minorities.

“I think more doors should be opening because we’re freaking good. It’s undeniable you have to interview us,” Legette-Jack said. “When you interview us, you must select us. The answer is yes. We are more ready than most people.”

Legette-Jack said Black female coaches couldn’t have a better advocate than Staley.

“I’m in awe of her. I’m a groupie. she’s so great and gracious,” the Bulls coach said. “You call her, and you think you’re the most special person in the world. She does it with everybody.”

Legette-Jack was one of nearly 70 Black female coaches that Staley sent a piece of her championship net that South Carolina won in 2017. It was a gesture that wasn’t lost on Buffalo’s coach.

“She sent it to them and gave a note to them,” Legette-Jack said. “She inspired us to want to reach higher. I’ve not seen that doing this for 33 years. No one has stepped out and been more impactful for the masses the way Dawn Staley has been.”

Staley had been debating who to give a piece of the championship net too the same way Carolyn Peck had done for her years ago.

“I wrestled with who to give it to with so many coaches out there, I can’t just pick one,” Staley said. “Let me do something different and give them to all the Black women’s coaches. There are Black men who are recipients. All Division I Black coaches in our game.”

Staley hopes that those coaches will all find a way to uplift someone else when they are successful.

“I started with the Division I coaches as they are the ones who have the biggest platform. Hopefully they can reach back into their coaching tree and career, see what people have impacted them in a way they can share it with,”″ Staley said. “It doesn’t have to be a tangible net, it could be a phone call, a text message. a letter, It symbolizes you’ve noticed what they are doing. The impact they’ve had in somebody’s life.”

While there are more Black coaches getting that first opportunity, Staley and others hope to see coaches who may not succeed right away be given some time or if they do end up failing, a second chance.

“There’s a different level of pressure put on a woman of color,” said Nikki Fargas, who is the president of the women of color coaches’ association. “We don’t get recycled. You don’t get a second chance. You’re having to think about that.”

Legette-Jack is one of the coaches Fargas has seen not get a second chance at a Power Five school after getting fired at Indiana. She has had success at Buffalo the last few years, leading them to the Sweet 16 before losing to Staley’s Gamecocks.

“You know in the back of your mind, I may not get another opportunity,” said Fargas, who spent a decade at LSU as the head coach after leaving UCLA. “I better do the best I can. A little added to it. It’s sad because we carry so much other stuff with us.”