Whalen practicing, should return for NCAA first round

After breaking her hand, Lindsay Whalen is healing at a rapid pace.

Dan Miller

Four weeks ago, on an overcast Friday the 13th, Lindsay Whalen and Minnesota’s women’s basketball coach Pam Borton somberly discussed the possibility that Whalen might miss the remainder of her senior season.

Whalen, Minnesota’s all-time leading scorer, broke two bones in her hand Feb. 12 against Ohio State and doctors said the day after that she might miss up to six weeks.

But this week news has brightened.

Monday, with a soft cast covering her right hand, Whalen began practicing with the team ahead of schedule, working only on defensive drills and conditioning.

Whalen said doctors told her this week there is a “good chance” she will be able to play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 21 at Williams Arena. But right now she said she is focused on continuing to strengthen in hopes she can help the team in nine days.

“We’re obviously not going to push it this week,” Whalen said. “I guess it’s more important for me to get my conditioning back and get my legs back under me.”

Whalen has used exercise bikes for the last three weeks to give her legs some exercise, but she said her conditioning has been affected.

“I felt decently quick out there,” Whalen said. “I mean, obviously not as quick as I would like to be, but hopefully over the next two weeks I will get back to the little quickness that I had before the injury.”

Even if Whalen isn’t back to her full form, Borton said the Gophers players are excited just to have her back in practice.

“For them to see her going through defensive drills and transition drills with the whole team was enough to put a smile on people’s faces,” Borton said.

But according to teammate Janel McCarville, Whalen has not just been playing defense; she has been sneaking in some shooting practice as well – with her left hand. And McCarville said she is getting good.

“She’s hitting ’em,” McCarville said. “She’s shooting threes easily Ö she’s amazing.”

For McCarville and the rest of the Gophers, it’s just good to see their leading scorer on the court and in practice.

“She gets on people a little and gives them that little scowl she does if they slack off,” McCarville said. “It’s nice to have her back.”

Kodak finalists

Whalen and McCarville are both Kodak All-America finalists.

Whalen was a member of the team last season, but McCarville is a first-time finalist.

They are among four Big Ten players named as finalists. The other two are Penn State’s Kelly Mazzante and Purdue’s Shereka Wright.

The final team of 10 players will be announced April 3 in New Orleans.