Hannah Tuomi on the rebound, back to health

A collective groan and wave of concern washed through Vandyland in March when news spread of the season-ending injury of Hannah Tuomi. The fan favorite started all 28 games with an 11.4 point average and led the team with 5.9 rebounds per game and a .565 field goal percentage.

Admired for her tenacious, "never give up" work ethic, the Thornton, Colo., post was sidelined at the beginning of tournament play. Crutches and a boot were a physical reminder of the stress fracture in her ankle, but her heart was wounded also. Vandy Mania caught up with Hannah to talk about then and now. 

VandyMania: Hannah, you're a junior now. How are classes going for you?   

Hannah: I've been in school now for a few weeks.  

VM:  Does it feel any different?  

H:  Nah, I still feel like a sophomore. Being a freshman was so hectic. The freshman and sophomore years went by so quick. I can't believe I'm a junior. But you know the ropes and how things go, and you're not so overwhelmed with everything. It's more like, ‘I'm back, I know what I need to get done.'  

VM:  Going back to earlier this year, I think some fans want to hear about your injury and that whole process. It may be painful for you, sorry, but if you can you go back to the injury itself and what exactly happened.  

Hannah: Well, I always had bad ankles ever since high school and I would sprain them and it wasn't such a big deal. I would go to rehab but they started getting progressively worse instead of better. I just thought it was something I had to deal with. It came to the point where I couldn't run. I was having a hard time and at that point I knew something was wrong because it was painful. I told [trainer] Michele [Loftis] that something was wrong but I didn't know what. So I got an MRI done and ffter the MRI I asked one of the techs what had happened and he said, ‘it looks like your foot got smashed,' so I was like, okay, fine, I knew that wasn't good.  

After the team doctor looked at it I thought I could still play but a specialist looked at it but he said, ‘nope, tomorrow you need to go directly to get put in a cast.' So it was kind of a shock all of a sudden. I didn't think it was that bad until the next day and wow, I was in a cast and had crutches. I couldn't walk, so then … 

VM:  And the timing of it was so bad. There's never a good time for an injury, but geez, right before the tournaments. 

H:  Yeah, the SEC tournament and NCAAs. I was in a cast for 6 to 8 weeks, then I had surgery at  the end of April, then I went home and recuperated. Now I'm back pretty much 100 percent.  

VM:  What did you do for rehab?

H:  At home I went to rehab twice a week and did a lot of stretching and balance stuff. When I came here I did a lot more agility and stretching again. I also did some different exercises for my ankle. 

VM:  What kind of perspective do you have on all this?

H:  You mean what I've learned? Well, actually a lot. In the grand scheme of things, getting injured and being on crutches really teaches you to be humble. You have to ask somebody for help. Also, when you see somebody else walking around on crutches you feel for them because you know how that was. And then, basketball-wise, you never take anything for granted. Like never waking up and complaining about having to get up because there might be a time when you don't have that. You're truly blessed to be here. 

VM:   Very good point, that's an excellent perspective. Was this your first major injury?

H:   Yes, it was my first time to be seriously injured where I had to sit out. Other injuries were like a cut eye or sprained ankle or bruises.

VM:   A bruise for you, really?

H:   (laughing) Yeah.

VM:   Another thing I thought was interesting from that time was how the team rallied behind you and Rebecca Silinksi—you for the injury and Becca for her illness. Can you talk about that?

H:   Umm, yeah. My teammates are definitely amazing. They were there for me (pauses) … sorry.

VM:  You're emotional over this. 
H:   Yeah, I always do. Umm, they were there for anything I needed. For support emotionally or whatever (wipes away tears and pauses). Jen [Risper] was like "I'm doing this for you, I'm going to win for you.' Stuff like that.

VM:   She was very vocal about that.

H:   Yeah so that was really special …wow.

VM:  Well, it was amazing how Jen stepped in to help a "height-challenged team" and how far we went in the post season. Thanks for sharing your feelings about that.

H:   No problem (laughing). I get a little teary-eyed. I can't help it.

VM:   No, it's perfectly understandable. What about goals for this season, unless you want to talk any more about the injury?

H:  No, I'm done with that.

VM:   To clarify, you are 100 percent recovered?

H:   Yeah, I'm good to go. It seemed like it took forever.

VM:   How long was it exactly?

H:   Well, from March to July, so five months solid. It was July before I could start running and by the end of July, I was getting more in shape with running and doing more fitness exercises. It all takes time.

VM:  So you're an upperclassman now and there are a lot of newcomers on the team. What are your thoughts about the freshman coming in?

H: They will definitely be beneficial to us. We need them. We're kind of a small team and we need them to step up and play roles right away. I know it's difficult as a freshman. I went through it but when you're a freshman you're expected to do certain things. You need to try your hardest to step in there and help the team any way you can. I think we have some really good talent on our team and I think once we start practice and they get the plays and do what the coaches expect of them, they'll be able to fill those roles. I'm excited to see that happen. They've all been working hard off-season and we're all excited to start the season.

VM:  What about your goals?

H:  I would say not only trying to be successful down low but also outside the key as well. Maybe a little dribbling here and there, a little shooting, just whatever I can do to try to expand my game and be more of a total threat. With our upperclassmen graduating – Jen and Tina were amazing leaders – I'd like to be more vocal and step more into that role of being a leader.

VM:  Good goals. Well, I've got to ask one more thing. When you were playing before the injury, you had a little issue with traveling.

H:  Oh God … (laughing) yeah!

VM:  Have you been working to correct that?

H:  Yeah, I did have a little trouble traveling. I hope it's gotten better, I'm not sure but I've been working on my footwork in rehab so hopefully that will carry over. I'm a lot more mature now. I'm more aware of where my body is on the floor. When you're young it's like ‘oh gosh, what do I do?' I'm more collected. When you get older, you get more calm and collected and know what you're doing, you're more poised.

VM:  So it wasn't a loss of concentration, just being a little unnerved?

H:  Yeah. I think so. I traveled the most when I caught the ball at first and the person was coming right at me and I was like, ‘shoot, which way do I go? What do I do?" So I think it was mostly that.

VM:  You're cool now.

H:  Hopefully, yeah.

VM: So you won't travel the whole season.  
H:  Ha. Right, not sure about that. We'll see.

VM:  Sure, you'll be fine. I had to tease you about that. Anything else you want to say to fans who supported you and were concerned earlier this year?

H:  I really appreciate everybody being concerned and helpful. I want to get the fans pumped and just get out there. We're going to have a good season.

VM:  Thanks Hannah. 

Hannah Tuomi (VM/Sharon Harper)

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