Syracuse guard Tiana Mangakahia, who missed the 2019-20 women's basketball season because of breast cancer, officially got word that she can return to competition this season. Mangakahia, 25, was granted an Extension of Eligibility Waiver by the NCAA.
Mangakahia was diagnosed in June 2019 with stage 2 breast cancer. She subsequently had chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. She was cleared to start practicing with the team in February but needed the waiver in order to play this season.
She said she is feeling good physically.
"I'm super excited," Mangakahia said. "I know I put in work. I'm ready to get on the court and play our first game. I want it to happen tomorrow. No other concerns."
Mangakahia, a native of Australia, has played two seasons for the Orange and compiled 591 assists (9.1 APG), while also averaging 17.1 points. Syracuse returns four starters from a 16-15 season, including guard Kiara Lewis, an all-ACC first-team selection. Coach Quentin Hillsman said Mangakahia and Lewis form what he thinks is one of the top backcourts in women's college basketball.
Mangakahia hopes to play for the Australian national team in the Olympics in 2021 and get a chance at the WNBA. She was put on the Australian senior team training roster before her illness.
"It helps me be able to showcase what I can do after everything," Mangakahia said of playing this college season. "If the Olympics occurred this year, I wouldn't have been able to play. One more year here ... gives me a better opportunity to make that team. That's something I still dream about."
Mangakahia is just 5-foot-6, but the success of a player of similar size, the Minnesota Lynx's 5-5 Crystal Dangerfield of UConn, is encouraging. Dangerfield was the WNBA's Rookie of the Year this season.