Healthy Hood ready to return

Hood, pictured here during her first season as a Torero in 2012-13, now stands within striking distance of several career records. Photo courtesy of USD Athletics.

A year removed from a season-ending knee injury, Maya Hood is excited to get back to basketball
 
Sunit Bhakta | Contributor | The USD Vista
Basketball is back, and thus begins another season for the University of San Diego’s women’s basketball team and head coach Cindy Fisher. Coach Fisher embarks on her 13th season as the head coach and looks to lead the Lady Toreros to a bounce-back season after finishing the 2016-17 season with a losing record.
One of Fisher’s primary weapons on the court will once again be forward Maya Hood, a member of the Toreros since 2012. Hood suffered a season-ending knee injury after just nine games last year, and her absence was a major contributor to the Lady Toreros’ lackluster campaign.
The injury required a lengthy and grueling rehab process to ensure Hood could return to the court for her sixth season at USD.
“Rehab has been challenging,” Hood said. “It was the hardest in the beginning because there was so much swelling in my leg and knee, so that was painful. But once I got past that initial hump, it became a lot easier for me. Overall, the athletic trainers at USD have done an incredible job over the last ten months to get my knee strong and healthy. I will forever be grateful for all their hard work and dedication to me.”
Her return is highly anticipated, and the Lady Toreros will lean heavily on the preseason all-conference selection when she comes back.
Hood, however, is welcoming those expectations and is looking forward to getting back to basketball.
“I am feeling amazing,” Hood said. “My body has been responding well to everything that I have been doing thus far in the process. I am excited to continue to get better and pick up where I left off last year and then go above and beyond that.”
The anticipation for Hood’s return, expected to be made on Nov. 14, is increased further by her leadership role on the team.
“This year my teammates named me the 2017-18 team captain alongside [senior guard] Aubrey Ward-El,” she said. “I think this is a huge honor and it speaks for itself that my teammates see me as a leader and someone they look up to and have respect for. I am always grateful to share my experience and knowledge with my teammates. I think it does help that I have been around college basketball, the coaching staff, and USD for six years now.”

Hood’s co-captain, senior guard Aubrey Ward-El, will provide the bulk of the Lady Toreros’ backcourt production. Walker Chuppe/The USD Vista

Hood is vocal about her excitement to return to the team as one of its foremost leaders, and noted that her recent experiences as a mother to her young son, Elijah, bear some striking similarities to her role with the Lady Toreros at times.
“You know it’s funny because sometimes I think of some of my teammates as my children,” Hood said. “I do think I naturally fall into that leader role just because of my age and maturity, the level of knowledge and experience that I bring to the table. There is this level of respect that my teammates have for me and for the things that I have done and accomplished in my years at USD. I’m glad to be that person that people can look up to for guidance and knowledge. I’m all about helping my teammates and pushing them to be the best that they can be.”
Expectations for the 2017-18 season are far from a one-way street, however. Besides helping the team return to its usual winning ways, Hood does not shy away from the personal goals she’s carrying into her graduate season.
“Obviously, for me, team goals are the most important,” Hood said. “But I do have some personal goals for this year. My biggest personal goal is to make the all-conference team. This is one thing that I still haven’t achieved in my six years at USD, so this is something that I really want to work hard for. There are also a few records I could break this year, including USD’s career records for points, rebounds, and steals.”
However, Hood emphasized that despite the personal accolades that could be on the way this season, her focus remains on the team’s success.
“I think all of these things are going to be in the back of my mind, but none of them are my main focus,” Hood said. “My main focus is on winning the West Coast Conference with my teammates and advancing to the NCAA tournament.”
To that end, Hood will certainly have some help. The team returns 11 players from last season, including the five players who played the most minutes. The roster will also carry eight juniors and seniors, bringing a level of maturity and veteran experience to the court on a nightly basis.
The aforementioned Ward-El returns for her senior season after averaging 11 points per game last year, while forwards Caroline Buhr and Patricia Brossmann are projected to be among the team’s leading rebounders again in 2017-18. On the defensive side of the ball, senior forward Sydney Williams, the Lady Toreros’ runaway leader in blocks last season, should continue to be a force around the basket.
Now nine seasons removed from their last conference title, the Lady Toreros were picked to finish fourth in the WCC this year, trailing Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, and BYU in the preseason predictions.

Forward Sydney Williams should continue to be an interior force for the Lady Toreros. Walker Chuppe/The USD Vista

However, a non-conference slate that ranks among the toughest Coach Fisher has ever scheduled should do well to prepare USD for a run at the conference title. Before beginning WCC play, the Lady Toreros will face 10 teams who played in postseason tournaments last year, including San Diego State, California, and Minnesota.
The team is certainly off to a strong start so far, winning their first game of the season last Friday over San Diego Christian, 82-53. Playing in the Sports Center as a part of a “Flashback Friday” promotional night, the Lady Toreros rode Buhr’s 19 points and 11 rebounds to the victory. The team as a whole followed Buhr’s lead on the glass, out-rebounding the opposing Hawks 52-18 and establishing their presence in the paint.
Despite the team’s Opening Night success without her, it remains likely that the Lady Toreros’ season will ultimately depend on the performance of Hood. With the sixth-year forward healthy and back in the mix, USD appears primed to return to the forefront of the conference conversation and threaten for a spot in the postseason this year.
The Lady Toreros travel to Honolulu for the Bank of Hawai’i Classic before returning home on Nov. 22 for a matchup with Long Beach State.

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