LINCOLN — Mi'Cole Cayton first visited Nebraska’s campus when she was 16. Finally, at 22, she’ll get to play for the Huskers.
The junior guard announced on Twitter on Saturday that she had been cleared by NU medical officials. Nebraska plays at Illinois at 7 p.m. Monday on BTN.
“Monday with the squad can’t come soon enough!” Cayton tweeted.
Nebraska, struggling with depth because of ankle injuries to Isabelle Bourne and Trinity Brady, agrees. Cayton has been warming up with the team before every game, but her habitually repaired right knee had not been cleared for action. It’s an injury that limited Cayton to four games since her freshman year at California.
Cayton tore the ACL to start her sophomore campaign. She returned for three games the next season at Cal before shutting it down to undergo another surgery.
Cayton hasn’t played since. Nebraska expects Cayton, when healthy, to be a major asset on defense and an energy boost on offense.
She transferred to NU in the offseason to play for the school she’d originally intended to play for out of high school. Cayton committed to Nebraska for the 2016 class but asked out of her scholarship when coach Connie Yori resigned from the program amid an athletic department investigation into her treatment of players. Yori’s successor, Amy Williams, allowed Cayton to do so.
Once she graduated from Cal last spring, she decided to restart her career at Nebraska.
“I always had this love for Nebraska ever since I went on my visit when I was 16 years old,” Cayton said last April. “I’ve always loved everything about it — the facilities, the coaches, the people you’re surrounded by, the fans, the atmosphere — and you know what, it’s my time to come back. I talked to my dad about it, going through the recruiting process again, and I said, ‘Nebraska is where it’s going to be.’ It’s time for me to venture off and be away from my family and get focused with basketball.”
Nebraska should get the help, as well, of true freshman Kendall Coley, who joined the program at semester last week. The forward practiced Thursday and should be ready to contribute Monday. Coley was the highest-rated recruit in Williams’ 2021 class and will not lose a year of eligibility, thanks to the NCAA’s pandemic exception.
The Huskers (7-5, 5-4 Big Ten) remain in the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid, though Tuesday’s loss to Minnesota hurt the résumé. According to ESPN’s Bracketology prediction, NU is currently in the 64-team event as a No. 9 seed, but Nebraska’s low NET ranking (70th) may complicate matters.
NU can ill afford a slip-up at Illinois, which is 2-7 and 0-6. Nebraska beat the Illini 78-72 on Dec. 10. Since then, Illinois has had three games postponed because of COVID-19.