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Wheeler back on shelf, Burns on court for UMaine women’s basketball team

BDN File Photo | BDN
BDN File Photo | BDN
Maine's Samantha Wheeler drives around Albany's Tabitha Makopondo during a game last season. Wheeler has spent the last 11 months dealing with the after-effects of a concussion. She had been doing some on-court workouts with the team this preseason, but recently was forced to curtail her efforts.
By Pete Warner, BDN Staff

ORONO — Patience may be a virtue, but two members of the University of Maine women’s basketball team think it might be a little overrated.

As the Black Bears prepare to begin the 2011-12 season with Sunday’s 2 p.m. exhibition game against the University of New Brunswick, two team members are still trying to work their way back from injuries.

Senior forward Samantha Wheeler and junior guard Rachele Burns of Gorham have been back on the court in recent weeks as they try to overcome health issues.

Burns has been practicing with coach Richard Barron’s team since Oct. 7 after rehabilitating a fourth knee surgery. She appeared in five games for the Bears but knee issues cost her most of the last three seasons dating back to her senior year at Gorham High School.

The good news is, Burns has received the OK to give it another shot.

”I got cleared to play, so I’ve been practicing an hour and a half, two hours, trying to get back into it,” said Burns, who sports a brace on each knee. “I’ve been doing everything at practice that the team’s been doing, just cutting back [the time on] some stuff.”

The 5-foot-6 guard is coming off January surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn medial meniscus in her left knee.

Burns previously had there surgeries in less than two years on her right knee, the last of which came January 2010.

She was a BDN All-Maine second-team choice as a junior at Gorham in 2008.

Burns expects another transition period in trying to get back into game shape.

“I definitely want to get back out there, get playing with the team and be able to contribute as much as possible this season,” she said.

Wheeler has spent the last 11 months dealing with the after-effects of a concussion she sustained during a practice last November.

She had been doing some on-court workouts with the team this preseason, but recently was forced to curtail her efforts.

“I was in the process of being weaned off the medication that I’ve been on since February,” said Wheeler, who began experiencing headaches again after doing so.

“We weren’t sure if the headaches were due to me being off the meds or whether it was more concussive kind of stuff,” she explained.

Wheeler, who had been participating in practice doing shooting drills and other noncontact elements, is again playing the waiting game.

“Now, we’re kind of starting from scratch again. I’ve just got to take it one day at a time, be patient,” Wheeler said.

The 6-footer was an All-America East second-team selection as a sophomore in 2009-10, but appeared in only five games last season before suffering the concussion when she was knocked into the padding behind the basket during a practice in Memorial Gymnasium and struck her head.

The presence of a healthy Wheeler in the UMaine lineup would provide the Bears with added experience, intensity and versatility.


The UMaine football team is gearing up for its annual “Senior Luncheon,” which is scheduled for Nov. 11 at noon at the Wells Conference Center on campus.

The luncheon is a tribute to this year’s senior class, which includes 18 players. The cost of the meal is $15 and fans also may make a contribution to defray the cost of the players’ lunch.

Tickets will not be sold at the door and those interested in attending should RSVP no later than Nov. 4. Checks should be made payable to “The University of Maine” and mailed to Caren Haskell Ford, University of Maine Football Office, 5747 Memorial Gymnasium, Orono, ME 04469-5747.


The UMaine women’s basketball team is looking for ball girls to help out during home games throughout the 2011-12 season.

The ball girls will assist underneath the hoops throughout the games in making sure the loose balls are collected and will also assist during pregame and at the half with ball distribution and collection.

Any girls interested should contact Maureen Barron at mbarron97@gmail.com.

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