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Despite bad back, Merchant surprised DeHaan not drafted

April 12, 2010

Senior center Allyssa DeHaan blocks Xavier center Ta’Shia Phillips as she tries to put up a shot during the second half in a game earlier this season.

MSU women’s basketball head coach Suzy Merchant was surprised when senior center Allyssa DeHaan wasn’t selected in the 2010 WNBA Draft last week.

But with the WNBA cutting training camp rosters from 18 to 15 players, roster spots are harder to come by. Combine that with the fact DeHaan wasn’t able to participate in any pre-draft camps due to a herniated disc in her back, and she fell off the board.

“I didn’t think she’d be a first or second rounder, but I thought she’d go,” Merchant said Monday at her season wrap-up press conference. “She was predicted, I think, 31st out of 36, but the one thing she doesn’t have, which I think a lot of coaches question, is her physicality and her ability to handle that. It’s just not how she’s built.”

DeHaan hurt her back prior to the Big Ten Tournament, but nobody realized the severity of the injury until the team returned to East Lansing following the tournament. At that point, it was thought to be back spasms, but doctors found it was a herniated disc.

DeHaan now will focus on finishing her undergraduate degree in the fall and is scheduled to take the MCAT in July.

“I think she’s going to get a lot of the things she needs to do out of the way, which I think will ease her mind to go play professional,” Merchant said. “Then she can go adjust her med school entrance based on how she feels about her professional career.”

Surgery still is an option for DeHaan. Merchant said she met with doctors Thursday to discuss it.

“They want to try a few more things, rehab it a little longer, try a couple more shots to get that inflammation rested a little bit more,” Merchant said. “But at some point, if it’s not going to go, then they’re going to need to go in there and do some surgical repair.”

Merchant also has hopes that two more seniors — center Lauren Aitch and forward Aisha Jefferson — can achieve their goal of playing professional basketball, although they’ll pursue that goal overseas.

Aitch attended the WNBA pre-draft camp in San Antonio.

“They both know across seas is the place they both need to go first,” Merchant said. “We’re working to try to make that happen. Aisha is trying to get herself healthy, too. Talking to her last night, it’s the healthiest she’s felt. She needs to heal.”

Merchant said both want to finish their master’s degrees.

Guard Mandy Piechowski will pursue a career in sports broadcasting.

Award time

The team officially wrapped up its season Sunday with its annual postseason awards banquet, where DeHaan, Jefferson and junior forward Kalisha Keane earned Team MVP honors as voted by their teammates.

Keane also earned Sixth Player of the Year honors.

Junior guard Brittney Thomas and sophomore forward Lykendra Johnson split the team’s Defensive Player of the Year award. Thomas also was named the team’s Most Improved Player, an award Merchant thinks has deeper meaning because of Thomas’ increased role in the offense late in the season.

“Her teammates gave her that award to let her know, ‘We want that from you, we need that from you,’” Merchant said. “Her scoring 10, 12 points a game matters.”

Junior guard Cetera Washington earned the Spartan Hustle Award for the second straight season, Aitch won the Spartan Character Award and freshman guard Tracy Nogle took the Pat Canning Coaches Award.

Injury update

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Merchant said sophomore forward Courtney Schiffauer, who missed all but two games due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, has been two weeks ahead of schedule in her rehab through the whole ordeal. She currently is running with a knee brace.

“Any drills she could do at the end of the year, she would do,” Merchant said. “I’ve walked through this gym many times and have heard a ball bounce and look down there and there she is.”

Sophomore guard Taylor Alton is expected to be medically cleared in a week to 10 days after undergoing surgery on her shoulder in late February.

“The blessing there is that could’ve been a three-to-six month recovery,” Merchant said.

“You never know with shoulders until you get in there, so
the positive thing is it was more of a four-week, six-week recovery time. She can’t do any contact stuff right, but she’s shooting the ball as good as ever. She’s in good shape, so she won’t have any problem coming back.”

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