— Bria Hartley said the court USA Basketball's 3 x 3 team played on in Greece this summer at the FIBA World Championship wasn't good.
She said It felt like it was pieced together like a tile floor, unsteady to step on, and as she now knows, dangerous.
"We were told that when the gym got hot, the tiles tended to expand," Hartley said. "I remember going up for a layup and getting bumped. And I landed on my left foot and [the floor] gave a little bit and my ankle felt really weird."
Hartley's ankle was severely sprained. And only now, three months later, is the All-America junior guard able to play again.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Wednesday that Hartley will make her debut Thursday when the No. 2 Huskies (2-0) play at the Paradise Jam Tournament against Wake Forest (2-1) at the University of Virgin Islands.
The Huskies are in the Island Division with Purdue, Marist and the Demon Deacons.
"I'm excited. I just want to play. I am so ready to go," Hartley said.
The Huskies will play Marist on Friday (8:15 p.m.) and No. 14 Purdue on Saturday (8:15 p.m.).
Auriemma said Hartley will not start and he wasn't sure how long she would play because of the pressure of the tournament format — three games in three nights.
"She has had two days consecutively of really good practices," Auriemma said. "It's been refreshing to have her out there and not sitting on the sideline, pouting and feeling miserable. We will try and work her back slowly over the next three days. It's not a lot of time for her to recover. But I am looking forward to it."
The Huskies have scored 184 points in victories over College of Charleston (103) and Texas A&M. They scored 224 points in two exhibition wins over lower-division opponents. And they are getting their points from all around a well-spaced floor.
"Yes, I have been hearing it," Hartley said. "Coach has been telling me they don't need me."
Hartley, 20, said she can't remember another time in her life when she was away from basketball this long.
"I think it may go back to when I was in the fourth grade when I broke my ankle falling on the playground," she said. "I've never really had to deal with an injury [in my career before].
Truth is, Hartley might have returned sooner had she not kept her injury secret for so long. She didn't get the treatment she needed until the pain became too much to deal with.
During her convalescence, Hartley worked on free throws or ball-handling from a stationary spot. There wasn't anything else she could do.
"But you don't forget how to play basketball," she said. "It comes back pretty quickly."
Hartley began accelerating physically last weekend at Texas A&M.
"It wasn't a full practice, and I must have tripped over myself five times," Hartley said. "It was a little rough; I was off-balance a few times. But it feels a lot better.
Auriemma suspects her timing might be off as she works herself back into game shape.
"It's hard," Auriemma said. "Her stamina is not great. But she's a really good athlete and she will get caught up really fast. I'm glad she's able to come back this week because [three games in three days] will speed up the process for her."
UConn athletic director Warde Manuel said Wednesday there was nothing to report about UConn's future in the Big East.
"As much as I am looking out for us, we also need to be invited to join," Manuel said. "I can't just decide that I would like [UConn] to join a new league. I can't just get up and take our team with me. It's more complicated than that. The process is much more detailed than just deciding what it is I want to do on behalf of Connecticut. So we continue to work and operate and learn what the landscape is within intercollegiate athletics and make the best decision we can make." ... Former UConn guard Mel Thomas, who played for the Huskies the last time they were in the Paradise Jam (2007), is the director of operations for Florida Gulf Coast, one of four teams in the Reef Division.