Mercury Rookie Pringle Rounding Into Form

By Matt Paulson,
July 18, 2008

To understand the progress Mercury rookie LaToya Pringle has made this season, one must look beyond her box score statistics.

To truly gauge how far she has come, tape measures and weights are needed. Those measuring devices won’t tell the entire story, but will provide insight as to why the first-round pick is just now — 22 games into the season — starting to play like one.

When Pringle showed up at training camp, she hardly resembled the go-to post player who had just helped lead North Carolina to a 33-3 record and the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. Her left leg was noticeably thinner than her right and she couldn’t run.

After playing the second-half of the college season with a left knee injury, Pringle underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove loose cartilage from the back of her kneecap. The combination shrank her thigh muscle, leaving the circumference of her left leg just above her knee two inches smaller than her right leg, and zapped her strength.

“(Head athletic trainer Tamara Poole) could move my leg with her finger. I couldn’t push back against it,” Pringle said.

After weeks of rehab, Pringle returned to the court but looked more like a newborn fawn than a basketball player. “We called her Bambi because she was always falling,” assistant coach Bridget Pettis said.

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“(At first) I’d run knock-kneed, and I’d put all my weight on my right leg,” Pringle said. “I had to kind of relearn everything, how to do it correctly.”

That process isn’t yet complete, but she is close to returning to the form that made her a collegiate standout.

“She’s obviously feeling more comfortable with her knee right now,” Pettis said. “I think that’s a start. Just feeling balanced again. Her confidence is going up with every practice.”

Her improved confidence can be seen in games as well. While she often hesitated whenever she touched the ball earlier in the season, Pringle has been more aggressive of late.

“The last two weeks, she’s just picked it up tremendously,” said guard Diana Taurasi, who is serving as Pringle’s mentor.

Pringle’s strong play in the post Thursday against Los Angeles’ all-Olympic front line resulted in her most balanced statistical game of the season. She finished with eight points, three steals, two rebounds and two assists in 16 minutes.

“When she plays well like (Thursday) night, it makes everyone’s job easier,” Taurasi said.

Pringle’s legs are about the same size now, and thanks to a regular weightlifting program and rehab exercises every other day most of her strength is back as well.

“It’s not perfect, but it’s better than I ever expected it to be at this point,” Pringle said. “I thought it was going to be a slow process to come back, but I really feel good out there.”

COPYRIGHT 2008, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.