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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Second WNBA season has been painful one for forrmer UConn star

Everything seemed to be aligning for Bria Hartley to build on a solid rookie season with the Washington Mystics.

The former UConn star played a starring role as UE Sopron won the Hungarian league title. Hartley then was in the starting lineup in the first two preseason games with the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and looked ready to go as she averaged 12 points and a team-leading 4.5 assists in wins over Atlanta and Minnesota.

Then it happened.

“I think in practice I kind of rolled my ankle a little bit but I didn’t think anything of it,” Hartley said before Friday’s game against the Connecticut Sun. “I just kind of thought that I roll my ankle all the time so it was nothing. It kept hurting for days after that. I eventually got the x-ray and saw it was broken. I had an ankle injury in college but it was a sprain so it was a little different.

“I was playing on it. I felt it but to me it wasn’t that bad. I’m known to have a pretty high pain tolerance so but at that point it is broken and you have to stay off of it.”

Hartley missed the final preseason contest and first six games of the regular season before she scored six points in six minutes in a June 23 win over Los Angeles.

Hartley played fewer than 10 minutes in six of the first 11 games she appeared in before playing in a season-high 20 minutes in Wednesday’s win over San Antonio and two days later scored a season-best nine points in a 86-72 loss to Connecticut.

“We are still kind of limiting her minutes, we aren’t having her do a full practice every day,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said. “We are being careful with it. I would say the last week has been the best. I thought the other night she gave us a big lift so hopefully that will be a positive thing to carry over.”

Hartley, also dealing with a knee sprain, is still wearing a brace on her foot and for a player who relies on her athleticism, it has been a challenge for her to deal with the fact that she can’t make some plays that are normally second nature to her.

“I am starting to get into the flow of things a lot more now,” Hartley said. “It is frustrating at times because you can’t play the way you want to play but things like this take time and you have to stay positive about it, have a good attitude so that is what I tried to do. I think we have been playing pretty well as of late and we want to continue.

“Missing a month of practice never helps especially me, I am such a young player who needs to be out there learning and doing things. I try to have a good mentality to go out there and help my team the best way I can in attacking the basket, getting into the lane and trying to create for people.”

Hartley wasn't able to play the first time Washington played in Connecticut this season but she received a typical warm response from the fans when she checked into Friday's game for the first time.

"It is always cool coming to Mohegan because so many people are UConn fans and they know 'there's Bria, she played for UConn' so that aspect for everything is really cool and the fans usually give us a warm welcome," Hartley said. "It is a little bit of a closer drive than going down to DC for my dad or my mom so they are able to come to the games here as well."

Playing overseas didn’t allow Hartley to keep up with the daily progress during UConn’s march to a third national title but she wasn’t surprised to see her former teammates win another championship even after she and Mystics teammate Stefanie Dolson graduated.

“Every time you look at UConn you expect them to win a title but when the lost that game at the beginning of the year to Stanford people thought ‘oh, this one is kind of up for grabs,’” Hartley said.

"Then they went on that dominant run again. I am sure they learned from their mistakes every day. It wasn’t easy, Dayton had a tough first half (in the NCAA tournament) but they made it through and they are able to win.”



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