Huskies' Poffenbarger ready for action after recovering from back injury

Published on Monday, 12 July 2021 19:51
Written by CARL ADAMEC

Journal Inquirer

STORRS - One of the reasons Saylor Poffenbarger joined the UConn women’s basketball team in January was so she’d be ahead of the game for her first full season.

But a back injury has held her back.

“I fell during the season last year and I didn’t think it was that serious,” Poffenbarger said Tuesday as the Huskies met the media at the Werth Champions Center. “But I had an MRI and found out that I had a stress fracture in my back. I didn’t have surgery, but I’m still out.

“I don’t like sitting out. Sitting out and doing nothing is very difficult. They’re not in any rush, but I am. Hopefully it will be about another month.”

Poffenbarger - a 6-foot-2 guard from Middletown, Maryland - was the first member of the Class of 2021 to commit to the Huskies, doing so in July 2019. That summer she was a member of USA Basketball’s 2019 U-16 national team that won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas Championship.

She averaged 21.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 5.5 assists as a junior in leading Middletown High to a 25-1 record and the Maryland 2A state tournament semifinals before play was halted due to the coronavirus. She was named All-State for the second straight year and then spent a good portion of the offseason recovering from hip surgery she had in the spring.

With her senior season in limbo because of the ongoing pandemic, she opted to graduate and enroll at UConn in time for the start of the spring semester. She would retain four years of eligibility starting with the 2021-22 season thanks to the NCAA’s decision last fall to grant a blanket waiver to players competing in 2020-21.

Her debut was at DePaul on Jan. 31 and she got on the board for the first time on Feb. 5 at Marquette with a 3-pointer. In 32 minutes over 12 games, she totaled six points and four rebounds. Her back issues did not help.

“I’d been having pain since February but just played my way through it,” Poffenbarger said. “In April when we got back from the tournament it was getting worse.

“I’m doing a lot of rehab, a lot of leg strength rehab. It takes time so it’s been really hard on me.”

But Poffenbarger has been able to work alongside her classmates Amari DeBerry, Caroline Ducharme, and Azzi Fudd the last six weeks here and if her timetable is correct she should be 100 percent when the Huskies start their preseason program when they return to campus in late August.

She believes she knows what coach Geno Auriemma, the staff, and her teammates need from her.

“Coach doesn’t bring you here to hold your hand,” Poffenbarger said. “You get a week and a half of leniency and then it’s, ‘You better know.’

“Coming here early, I think it will put me ahead because I’ve been there. My first game in November won’t be my first game ever. The experience will help a lot. It takes out the first-time jitters that you normally might have. Knowing the system, knowing how things go, knowing the expectations and knowing what’s required is an advantage.”

Posted in The Bristol Press, UConn on Monday, 12 July 2021 19:51. Updated: Monday, 12 July 2021 19:53.