One player in particular had been waiting for this week’s college basketball news since long before the spread of the coronavirus ended last season.

The NCAA’s announcement that the college basketball season would begin Nov. 25 had extra importance for Syracuse guard Tiana Mangakahia.

Mangakahia sat out her entire senior year after being diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in June of 2019. After going through chemotherapy and surgeries, she is now cancer-free and was cleared in February 2020 to compete in the upcoming season. 

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Updates on the 2020 college basketball season, COVID-19 news

The All-American guard currently owns Syracuse’s all-time record in assists. Mangakahia shared with NCAA.com that she will use this experience to her advantage when she suits up in Syracuse orange for a final time. 

“It was very different for me sitting on the sideline, but I loved so much being a leader for Coach Q and my teammates,” she said. “I’m just looking forward to helping my team get to a championship and just be a leader on and off the floor. That’s one thing that I’ve learned. Different ways to approach the plays and my teammates.” 

Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman will have his starting point guard back in the lineup to join lead scorer Kiara Lewis plus four returning starters. Syracuse also signed the No. 4 2020 recruiting class to add to its winning formula. Two of those rookies are ranked nationally in the top-10 — Kamilla Cardoso and Priscilla Williams.  

Under coach Hillsman’s 14-year tenure, Syracuse has made it to 12 consecutive postseason appearances and seven NCAA tournaments including its national championship run in 2016. Before COVID-19, Syracuse finished with a record of 9-9 in the ACC and 16-15 overall. The Orange weren’t expected to make the NCAA tournament, which would have been the first time since 2012. 

“We’re strong,” Hillsman said. “We’re a veteran team. We’re putting the No. 4 recruiting class in the country with Kiara and the best point guard in the country. So we’re just excited. We’re a very deep basketball team this year. We have enough to definitely win the ACC and win the national championship. That’s our only goal, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.” 

More NCAA season details can be found here. 

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