University of Maine women’s basketball player Blanca Millan, the 2019 America East Player of the Year, plans to return to the Black Bears for a fifth season of eligibility.
The eligibility of Millan, who suffered a season-ending knee injury, is contingent on receiving a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA after the conclusion of the season, head coach Amy Vachon said Monday.
Vachon also announced that reserve forwards Kira Barra and Kat Williams, who are both juniors, are on pace to graduate in May and won’t return for their final season of eligibility. And reserve senior guard Sierra Tapley, who is one of the Black Bears’ captains, will undergo knee surgery and miss the rest of the season.
Millan, a senior guard, suffered a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee on Nov. 29 during UMaine’s 57-31 loss to Arizona State in the Gulf Coast Showcase Tournament in Estero, Florida. She has since had surgery to repair the knee.
Under NCAA medical redshirt requirements, a player can’t have played in more than 30 percent of their team’s games or appeared in a game in the second half of the season to receive a medical redshirt.
Millan played in only six games (20 percent) of the Black Bears’ 30-game schedule and all prior to the halfway point.
Millan, also the 2019 America East Defensive Player of the Year last season, had other options for next season.
Since she will graduate in May, she could under NCAA rules have transferred to another school and played immediately as a graduate student. Student-athletes have five years in which to complete four seasons of eligibility.
Millan also could have elected to sign a pro contract.
“Blanca has really high goals. She wants to play at the highest level,” Vachon said. “Through her rehabilitation process and watching our team play, she realizes how much she loves her teammates, the state of Maine and the university.
“She feels staying here will put her in the best position to reach her goals when she is done here,” she said.
The 6-foot-1 native of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, ranks eighth on UMaine’s career scoring list with 1,547 points. She is 125 behind Sigi Koizar.
Millan was off to an impressive start this season as she was averaging 18.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals.
Last season, Millan averaged 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 2.1 assists and blocked 46 shots in 33 games.
She was the America East tournament Most Valuable Player the last two seasons as she has led the Black Bears to consecutive championships and NCAA Tournament appearances.
For her career, Millan is averaging 14.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.5 steals.
She is a two-time America East first-team selection and was an All-Rookie choice.
Millan and Tapley are two of four Black Bears who have had their seasons ended prematurely by injury.
Senior forward Fanny Wadling, who led America East in rebounds per game last season with nine, hasn’t played a game after suffering a concussion in an exhibition game and will not play this season. She will return for her fifth year next season.
Senior forward Alex Bolozova, a transfer student who appeared in 10 games last season but did not play this season, also was lost with a knee injury.
The Black Bears are without freshman forward Abbe Laurence, who is sidelined with a knee injury and they have only nine available players.
Barra has appeared in all 18 games this season and is averaging 10.7 minutes per game. The 6-3 native of Dillingen, Germany, is averaging 1.8 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists.
The 6-5 Williams has played in seven games and averaged 3.3 minutes per contest.
Tapley, a guard from Bar Harbor, has also played in seven games and averaged three minutes per game.
This story was corrected at 3 p.m. on Jan. 14, 2020, to reflect that Millan injured and had surgery on her left knee.