Little proves she’s tough stuff in Motor City Madness game
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In the final game of the Oakland women’s basketball regular season on Saturday, Feb. 25, Hannah Little went up for a rebound, just like many times before. She led the team in rebounds this season with 342, but this one would come at a price.
Little came down from the rebound in excruciating pain, after her hand was trapped between the ball and her opponent.
“I just remember pulling away real fast,” Little said. “When it first happened, I was like, ‘Oh man. It’s over for me’ . . . it hurt so bad.”
In the following days, Little awaited answers and had big decisions to make. After seeing the X-rays on Monday, it was clear her hand was broken and was going to need surgery.
With the Horizon League Tournament just days away, the doctor told Little she could play, but recommended against it, doubting she’d be effective with a useless hand. Together with the doctor, the athletic trainer and head coach Jeff Tungate, Little decided to schedule surgery and was ruled out for Motor City Madness.
As the week progressed, so did Little’s hand.
“The next day, I woke up, and I was like, ‘Hey, I can move my hand. Let me see if I can go and dribble or shoot a layup.’ So, I went to practice, and I was on the side just dribbling.”
She called Tungate after practice and said, “You trust me coach? What would you do if I told you I could play?”
Little said Tungate was very supportive throughout the process. He prioritizes the players’ health and well-being over winning.
With the surgery scheduled for the following day, Little had her athletic trainer cancel, barely 24 hours in advance.
“It was hurting, but I was like, ‘I can move it,’” Little said. “I can’t just sit on the bench. So, I was like, ‘I’m going to give it a go.’”
Little had more to think about in making this decision than just the quarterfinal matchup against Milwaukee. She has plans to play professionally after she graduates this April. She was getting some predraft attention and was set for a combine at the end of March with WNBA and overseas agents in attendance.
However, with the recovery period for the surgery being about 10 weeks, Little wasn’t sure if she’d be able to participate in the combine either way.
“The doctor said it would be a tight squeeze,” Little said. “The doctor said I could play in the combine, but if I messed up some screws and plates, [I’d have to] come back and fix it . . . I might as well play in the Horizon League Tournament, then have surgery and heal fully, rather than have to re-injure myself.”
So, Little suited up alongside her teammates, ready to take on the Panthers of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the quarterfinals of Motor City Madness. The Golden Grizzlies didn’t get the result they wanted, and the 2016-2017 season came to a close after an 82-60 loss.
Little had 6 points in the effort against Milwaukee, playing 25 minutes. She usually averages 11 points and about 32 minutes per game.
“I wasn’t thinking about it at all,” Little said. “At the beginning of the game, I was like, ‘What hand? Let’s go.'”
Little admitted she couldn’t be as effective as she’d hoped.
“I was just trying to do anything I could,” she said. “I couldn’t grab rebounds how I usually grab them. I couldn’t get deflections how I usually do.”
“I just wanted to be in and be on the court,” she added.
“I mean, what an incredible story,” Tungate said in the press conference after the loss to Milwaukee. “How many people are going to play with a broken hand, tape it up and say, ‘Let’s go.’? Then, in the second half, she just came out and said, ‘Forget the hand, we’re winning, let’s play.’ I just think the toughness of that kid is unbelievable. I don’t know very many people in the country that would do what she attempted to do today, and I’m just really, really proud of her.”
“I’m sad we didn’t win, but I had fun and we had a great season,” she said. “I’m happy [with my decision].”