Much to the surprise of both (some) fans and opposing coaches in the California Golden Bears' 70-51 win over the Long Beach State 49ers, forward Gennifer Brandon made her return from injury in Friday night's season opener at Haas Pavilion.
Brandon checked into the game at 13:56 in the first half, exactly three months to the day that she had surgery to repair a recurrent right tibial stress fracture (August 8), according to Cal Athletics. And if you were wondering whether her offseason leg surgery diminished any of her athleticism, she dispelled that notion early in her 13 minutes of game action: after Cal had a bit of a defensive breakdown to leave a LBSU shooter open in the corner, Brandon turned, sprinted from the lane to the corner, and used her combination of leaping ability and length to swat the shot into the third row.
It was an amazing feat of athleticism that Cal fans have probably come to expect at this point, but showed appreciation for with a vibrant applause.
Viet Nguyen of BearInsider.com reported on the reaction of both Brandon and the opposing coach after the game.
"Emotionally, I felt wonderful, feeding off the energy of our team. Physically, I felt I could have been stronger, but I felt good overall. It's a beautiful, beautiful feeling."
Brandon's return was unexpected for many in the building, including LBS head coach Jody Wynn. "On the media report, it said she's out," Wynn said drily. "She's an unbelievable leaper, plays with high energy, gets to the ball when no one else has a chance. Not many women in the country have that kind of athleticism and that kind of quick jump."
Brandon would finish with six points and two rebounds in 13 minutes.
Brandon's return was obviously a positive sign for Cal fans as the #2 Duke Blue Devils make a visit to Haas Pavilion on Sunday at 3 p.m. on ESPNU.
For more on Sunday's matchup, check out our Cal-Duke storystream.