ORONO, Maine (BVM) — In 2019, Blanca Millan headed into her senior season looking to cap off an incredible career at the University of Maine. Six games in, Millan averaged a team-high 18.2 points and opened the Black Bears’ season with a career-high 37 points.
In the sixth game, against Arizona State, Millan would suffer a season-ending knee injury late in the first half.
“I was driving to the basket about to take a layup, I was dribbling and the defense wasn’t catching me,” Millan said. “When I took off for the first step, my knee just popped out of place. I looked down and my knee was not in the right place. I kind of blacked out for a little bit. It was pain mixed with knowing that I really got hurt, so I knew that was kind of the end for me and I knew it because of the pain.”
With the injury ending her senior season early, Millan would have a long road to recovery with months of rehab in front of her.
“It’s not a terrible injury, it’s just a really long process, but the mental aspect of it is really hard,” Millan said. “I started doing rehab basically the next day from when I got hurt and you kind of go through different stages. Before I got the surgery, I was just focused on getting as much muscle as possible, so after surgery it would be easier. After I got the surgery, I was doing rehab six, seven days a week, trying to get the muscle back and gain all the strength that I lost.”
As if her injury wasn’t enough, Millan would have some other things to worry about, with her family still in Spain during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been really hard, especially when everything started,” Millan said. “Spain was like two months ahead of us, so I knew what was ahead for us because my family was going through it before. In March, every European player that we had left, so it was just me and another European here. Seeing them with their families for five or six months was tough.
“I’m very close with my sister and I haven’t seen her in a very long time and all we do is just Facetime, but it’s not the same. They know I’m good, and I know they are well, so that helps. I call them everyday for a little bit, even if it’s just to say hi and bye.”
Still needing to rehab her knee, Millan would have to make a tough decision to stay back in Orono instead of traveling back to her hometown of Santiago de Compostela, Spain for the summer.
“I always go home in May and come back in August,” Millan said when talking about going home for the summer. “I’ve been doing that the last four years and unfortunately this year I couldn’t. I had it in my mind that I was going to stay here all summer, but for basketball reasons. It was my last year, so I wanted to practice as much as I could, but then it turned out that I got hurt, so I stayed for the rehab. I was going to go home for a couple weeks in August, but with the COVID-19 stuff that didn’t work either, so I stayed here the whole summer.
“I did rehab the whole summer, as much basketball as I could. It was definitely weird and different, I haven’t seen my family in over a year, but it was a great summer. I really like Maine. I have not experienced Maine in the summer until this year so that was something different.”
Millan received a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA and has been granted a fifth year at the program. The 2019 America East Player of the Year is looking forward to the upcoming season after her long rehabilitation process.
“It was a lot of the same thing over, and over, and over,” Millan said. “Every single day, even now, I’m still doing the same thing to keep getting my legs back to 100%. Doing the same thing for six, seven months is tough, but you know, I just got cleared two days ago, so to see the quiet work pay off has been really nice.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for nine months now, so I’m definitely ready to go. I’m really excited. My first and only goal is to help my team as much as I can to get that (America East) championship. The game last year got canceled and it was heartbreaking for everyone, so I want to do every little thing my team needs me to do to get to that point.”