UConn women’s basketball’s Caroline Ducharme, Dorka Juhász give injury updates at WNBA Sun game

Photo of Maggie Vanoni

UNCASVILLE — For UConn women’s basketball players, the months of April and May are their first chances after the season ends to go home and get some down time. The Huskies’ season ended on April 3 in the national championship and they have until June 1 to report back to campus for their first summer practice session.

Some take the time to attend events and professional basketball games, while others fly home to spend time with family.

Unlike their teammates who got the time off, Caroline Ducharme and Dorka Juhász remained in Storrs this spring rehabbing injuries. Ducharme underwent hip surgery at the end of April while Juhász suffered a wrist fracture during UConn’s Elite Eight win over NC State.

On Tuesday, Ducharme and Juhász got away from campus for the first time this spring, sitting courtside at the Sun’s game against Dallas at Mohegan Sun Arena.

“We’re feeling good,” Juhász said. “We made a lot of progress. It’s also been a little bit easier to have each other because obviously our injuries are completely different, but just to have someone there that can every day go to rehab (with you), it can get kinda boring doing the same exercises, so it’s good to have one of your teammates there.”

While they reside in different apartment units, Ducharme lives just a floor below Juhász in the same building, they spend every day together rehabbing inside UConn’s facilities. At night, the two watch WNBA games — especially those of recent UConn graduates Evina Westbrook (Minnesota) and Olivia Nelson-Ododa (Los Angeles).

“Just seeing people that we played with, some of our closest friends, like literally a couple months ago and now they’re playing on the biggest stage and doing really well, it’s been really fun watching them and supporting them,” Ducharme said.

To be able to sit courtside Tuesday and watch the Sun face Dallas in person gave a glimpse into the professional basketball life both Ducharme and Juhász dream about following their time at UConn.

“It’s different when you watch a game on TV and then being in person,” Juhász said. “That’s both of our goals to play in the WNBA so following all the games and just seeing them in person that’s always awesome to see. We love to support other women sports and we’re very happy to be here.”

INJURY UPDATES

Ducharme said she initially injured her left hip labrum during her junior year of high school. However, it continued to bother her and cause pain during her freshman season. She said it was always the plan to fix the injury after the season.

“I dealt with it all season and credit to our training staff to help me get through it,” she said. “It was definitely painful, but I think the way that I was able to attack it throughout the season and keep it together in order to play was really great and I’m glad I did it. I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to get the surgery before.”

On April 28, she received surgery to repair the injury. UConn coach Geno Auriemma said the now-sophomore is expected to return to practice in August and won’t be fully back, healthy until September. Ducharme said Tuesday her rehab consists of workouts in the pool and gaining muscle back in her leg. As of this week, she’s improved enough to use just one crutch to walk on.

“Right now, it’s still kinda like activating the muscles,” Ducharme said. “I’m doing more and more and putting more and more weight on it. Doing like little squats and stuff like that. The big thing was being able to get back to the pool and be able to get motion back, and doing the same thing every day. So I once I was able to get moving, it was kinda like, ‘OK I can see the light at the end.’”

Juhász was diagnosed with a season-ending fracture in her left wrist after falling under the basket in the second quarter against the Wolfpack on March 28. She received surgery a few days later and made the trip to Minnesota for the Final Four to cheer on her teammates from the bench.

After about two months of healing and rehab, Juhász got her wrist cast off on Tuesday before the Sun game. Now, two scars line the side of her wrist.

“The bones are healing really well so for me it’s kinda just getting the mobility, flexibility, everything back to normal,” she said. “And now once I have that, I’m pretty close to that, then I can start strengthening it. I’ll be ready sooner than I think, but just gotta get back that strength, confidence and building up the muscle around the bone.”

Juhász expects to be back fully in August. She said receiving supporting letters from UConn fans during her recovery has helped kept her motivated.

“It was just amazing to think how many people wrote me a letter and thought about me. I read like all of them so it was very useful for me to have for when I was little down,” Juhász said. “I read those letters from fans and just cheering me up and just feeling the support system that I have around me, it was very emotional. It really made me super appreciative of how much UConn fans love us. I got some mail from not even UConn fans. It’s crazy. … It warmed my heart for real. It was super nice.”

maggie.vanoni@hearstmediact.com