UConn's Hunter says she's ready to contribute
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Connecticut has been cautious this season with center Brittany Hunter and her surgically rebuilt right knee.
When it's sore, she sits. When it's not, she plays.
The junior transfer from Duke has missed 11 games and seen limited action in the others. But after playing nine minutes and scoring 10 points during a 92-49 win over Villanova on Saturday, Hunter says she's ready to make a bigger contribution as the third-ranked Huskies head into the Big East and NCAA tournaments.
"I feel like the next 10 games I'll be fine," Hunter said Saturday. "I'm glad if I did have to sit out that it was then and now I feel like, OK I can just go back to the way I was going, get on my course again and just play."
Of course, the Huskies will play only 10 more if they make it to the national title game. Hunter could provide needed depth for that run. Without her, UConn uses just seven players, six of whom average more than 20 minutes a game.
Hunter spent the most time on the court Saturday since playing 18 minutes against DePaul on Jan. 24. She was 5-for-6 from the field and had four rebounds.
The top player in the nation coming out of high school, Hunter had surgery in 2004 to replace the lateral meniscus in her right knee. She sat out that season after transferring from Duke to UConn and has been battling soreness in the knee ever since. In November, she aggravated the injury, but opted against any surgery until at least after the season.
In 17 games, she's averaging 7.2 points and 4.7 rebounds.
Hunter said she's been trying to stay in shape, lifting weights and riding a stationary bike. She understands her situation, and just wants to be ready when the team needs her.
With Hunter unable to go for long stretches, UConn has turned to freshman Tina Charles, and she has responded.
Charles has averaged 13 points and nine rebounds, and has turned her game up a notch recently, scoring 34 against South Florida on Tuesday and 21 against Villanova on Saturday.
"That's taken a lot of pressure off," Hunter said. "When you see a team struggling, you're like, 'Dang it, I wish I could help."'
Coach Geno Auriemma said he is not sure if Hunter will even play in the season finale against Rutgers, or how much time she'll see in the tournaments.
"I just have to go by what I see the day that I show up," he said. "We'll go down Monday night, if she can play, she'll play, if she can't, she can't. That is an unknown that I can't speculate on."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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