Two months ago, former Kansas University women’s basketball player Danielle McCray put in a layup for her Italian team, Famila Schio, and turned to sprint back to the other end.
At first, she felt something like a kick in her left leg. A second later, she felt like she was running with one high-heel shoe and one regular shoe.
“I immediately knew,” McCray said, “that I did something.”
That something was the reason McCray was back in Lawrence on Tuesday, meeting up with some of her old KU teammates and coaches instead of playing for the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA.
McCray tore the Achilles tendon in her left foot, which will keep her out of basketball for six to nine months. That also means she’ll miss the entire WNBA season.
It’s not the first time McCray has gone through the rehab process. As a senior at KU in 2010, McCray tore the ACL in her left knee in February before getting selected seventh overall by the Sun in the 2010 WNBA Draft.
After suffering her Achilles injury this year, McCray said she never considered retirement.
“I’m never going to give up. I’m not,” McCray said. “I feel like I still have so much room to grow and so many things to prove. It’s not a point to stop for me.”
For now, McCray’s wearing a protective boot and taking it easy, even joking to those around her about her limp.
In two months, she’ll be cleared to run and jump, and her hope is that she can return to play overseas in January before rejoining the Sun in May.
McCray also is using the time to relax. Because women’s basketball players have the opportunity to make additional money overseas, they typically don’t get much of an offseason.
Last year, McCray had only a two-week gap between the end of her WNBA season and the start of her season in Slovakia.
“I feel like this was kind of a rest for me,” McCray said. “I’ve been at it for a while.”
McCray has still been able to pay close attention to her alma mater. She watched KU’s NCAA Tournament games online in Italy last March and even tweeted back and forth with some Jayhawks fans during the games.
McCray also stayed in close contact with her former teammates, including Angel Goodrich, Carolyn Davis and Monica Engelman.
“It was just good to see that they followed your lead and something we all started from our six seniors that we had,” McCray said. “We wanted to be in that Sweet 16, but I guess it took some (additional) time.”
The 25-year-old McCray, who finished fourth on KU’s all-time scoring list with 1,934 points, averaged 5.9 points per game in her rookie year with the Sun before posting 4.8 ppg a year ago.
Overall, though, she’s enjoyed her experience in the WNBA.
“It’s always something I’ve dreamed of since I was little,” McCray said. “Just playing against some of the best has been fun.”