With two weeks before the regular season begins, the Nebraska women’s basketball team still has some injured players, but has freshman Kate Cain back on the court.
Cain had a foot injury that kept her out for the start of official practice earlier this month, but coach Amy Williams is confident Cain has been able to recover from it.
“Kate has worked back into practice, so we’re very excited to have her back,” said Williams, speaking Friday during the Big Ten Conference preseason teleconference. “She missed a few weeks there, and now we’re going to work her back into some conditioning, and we’re excited to have her back on the floor.”
Cain is a 6-foot-5 center from Middletown, New York, who was a late addition to the Huskers’ recruiting class.
The Huskers have only 12 players on the roster, so getting any player back from injury is important. But Cain plays inside, where the Huskers have to try and make up some of the 18.6 points and 9.8 rebounds that Jessica Shepard averaged last season, and the 6.9 points and 5.3 rebounds that Allie Havers averaged. Shepard transferred to Notre Dame, and Havers used up her basketball eligibility and is now on the Nebraska volleyball team.
Williams thinks Cain can make an impact for the Huskers.
“There is that learning curve for all freshmen, but I think Kate is coming to Nebraska at an incredible time to be able to make an impact,” Williams said. “We need the strengths that she brings, and she definitely has shown an ability to find ways to be creative and score around the basket and be that presence inside, and I think she just possesses some talent and skills and size that we really needed in the program.”
Nebraska finished last year with a 7-22 record in Williams’ first season. Last year, Williams said, the goal was always for the Huskers to be playing their best at the end of the year. Nebraska won its final two home games, against Indiana and Michigan State, before losing to Illinois 79-70 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
Sophomore guard Hannah Whitish, who scored 24 points in the upset win against Michigan State, has been pleased with the team’s work since last season ended.
“I think just seeing every single person on our team taking the huge strides that they have gets me really excited to see as a team coming that first game how good we’re going to be together,” said Whitish, in an interview with the Big Ten Network.
Injury update: Cain is one of several Huskers who are recovering from injuries from the offseason, or new injuries suffered during the preseason.
Sophomore guard Nicea Eliely, the Huskers’ third-leading scorer last season with 7.7 points per game, suffered a foot injury this month that may limit her early in the season.
Senior transfer guard Janay Morton had foot surgery in September but could return for the start of the regular season.
Sophomore forward Rachel Blackburn, who sat out all of last season after knee surgery, has been able to practice about half of the time, and that’s encouraging to Williams.
“We like what we’re seeing out of her,” Williams said. “She brings a toughness and a mentality that we really need to see.”
* Nebraska received a few votes in the preseason USA Today women’s basketball poll released Thursday. Nebraska had five points in the poll, making them the equivalent of tied for No. 42 in the poll. There are 32 NCAA Division I head coaches who vote in the poll.
* Just one of the 14 Big Ten teams has a new coach this season. Nancy Fahey is the new head coach at Illinois, taking over after Matt Bollant was fired in March after five seasons. Fahey spent 31 years at Washington University in St. Louis, where she guided the Bears to an NCAA record five Division III national championships.