College Basketball Star Plays First Game in Nearly Two Years After Bout with Breast Cancer

A college basketball player who hadn’t made an appearance in a game for nearly two years after a breast cancer diagnosis made her comeback over the weekend.

Tiana Mangakahia clocked 36 minutes for the Syracuse Orange Sunday in their season opener, a 50-39 victory against Stony Brook. The senior guard scored 16 points and added seven rebounds, with four steals. Her three assists also helped pad her numbers as the school’s all-time assist leader.

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PHOTO: FACEBOOK/SYRACUSE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

Mangakahia said, “There was a lot going through my mind, especially on the bus. In the warm-ups, there was less emotions because I was just focused. But on the bus, I was very emotional and I just couldn’t believe that this day was here and I was going to be able to play.”

She also said she wasn’t expecting to do really well after such a long hiatus, but she just wanted to go out there and try her hardest.

In April 2019, Mangakahia made the decision to put dreams of the WNBA on hold and play in her final year of eligibility. Two months later, she found a lump that was later diagnosed as invasive ductal carcinoma. This led to eight rounds of chemotherapy and two surgeries, including a double mastectomy last November.

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PHOTO: FACEBOOK/SYRACUSE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

At Syracuse’s annual Pink Game earlier this year, she was honored with video tributes and a half-time ceremony, during which the Australia native said, “Syracuse is my second home now. I probably wouldn’t have been able to make it through without everyone’s support, especially from my teammates, coaches, athletic department. Just thank you so much.”

She’s been cancer-free since last November.

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After Sunday’s game, Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman was happy to have her back, saying, “I’m just so grateful that she has the opportunity to play again. Some people lose their life and she’s here and playing for us. I’m very thankful and grateful.”

Mangakahia feels that she’s still got a lot to work on. However, with her stamina not quite back to normal and the fact that she’s still getting used to how her body has changed, she’s just playing how her body will allow.

She says, “If I was to rate my performance out of 100, I wasn’t extremely happy with how I played, but I’m just glad we got the win. So I’d probably say like an 85. I just felt super happy to be on the court, and I just wanted to play really good.”

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