When you consider all the great things that have characterized her athletic career, it’s difficult to say UConn’s Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has had a hard-knock life.
But early in the second half of the Stanford game on Nov. 11, just the second game of the season, a tough fall delivered a hard blow to her right elbow that could have easily put an end to her junior season.
The resulting compressed ulnar nerve ended up costing Mosqueda-Lewis, a WBCA All-American as a sophomore, eight games before she was well enough to return at Duke.
But she returned in style, making seven three-pointers to score 21 points in UConn’s win.
“It was a perfect game for her to come back,” Geno Auriemma said. “Having Stefanie Dolson [UConn’s center] on the floor meant that she would find Kaleena no matter where she was.”
Still, it wasn’t until the California game on Dec. 22 in New York City that she found out what kind of shock the elbow could absorb from more blunt force trauma. That’s when she fell on it again.
“I didn’t think it was anything major,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “But I [did think] ‘dang, that hurt, but get up.’”
This time, Mosqueda-Lewis for right up, the only byproduct a small grimace on her face. All was well this time – for her and her No. 1 team.
“I had to find out what it was going to be like getting hit so I would not be tentative going for rebounds, steals and being able to play tough defense,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “That is one thing I didn’t really do [at Duke]. I just basically shot the ball. There were a couple of times I went for a rebound and when someone battle me for it, I just kind of let it [the ball] go.”
Mosqueda-Lewis, her arm brace and her teammates, are in Orlando Wednesday to play the first road game as a member of The American at Central Florida.
Mosqueda-Lewis struggled somewhat against California, mainly because Dolson, her feeder system, was on the bench with foul trouble and Breanna Stewart was tying her career-high with 29 points in 27 minutes.
Against Cal, Moscqueda-Lewis was 2 of 3 from three with 10 points and five rebounds boards in 26 minutes of action. And then Sunday against Cincinnati, she scored seven of UConn’s first 13 points before three fouls sidelined her. She did not score another point. But she had four assists and two steals in 23 minutes.
So she is still working herself back into condition.
“But she is still one of the best players in the country,” Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott said.