Syracuse Basketball: Tiana Mangakahia plans on more than just a comeback

Tiana Mangakahia #4 of the Syracuse Orange (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
Tiana Mangakahia #4 of the Syracuse Orange (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images) /

Syracuse basketball star Tiana Mangakahia wants more than just a comeback.

Two years ago, Syracuse basketball star Tiana Mangakahia was one of the top women’s college basketball players in the country. She dominated the competition and was a star on and off the court for the women’s team.

In her first two seasons with Syracuse, Mangakahia averaged 17 points, 9 assists, and 4 rebounds per game. The Meadowbrook, Australia native was headed into her senior season with her sights set high for both her final year at Syracuse and where she was headed in her professional career.

Mangakahia was ready to tackle her senior season after being named All-ACC first team and was an honorable mention for All-American, but she wouldn’t end up playing a minute of basketball that year.

During the summer between her junior and senior years, Mangakahia was diagnosed with stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, a form of breast cancer.  She began eight chemotherapy treatments and underwent a double mastectomy, and has been declared cancer-free at this time.

Chatting with Syracuse basketball star, Tiana Mangakahia

The 5-foot-six guard is working to come back for her official senior season with a chip on her shoulder and a loaded women’s Syracuse basketball roster. I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions on how she felt about eventually returning to the court, and what emotions and expectations she had.

“Happiness and blessed,” Mangakahia said as to her feelings. And what did she expect? “To be a top ten player in the country, ACC Player of the Year, and to lead and win a national championship”.

It sounds like she has it planned out perfectly.

Being away from the game and the team, Tiana has had to rely on various forms of both information and motivation to help keep her mind on the task at hand. She told us a few of her methods.

"“Video from the ACC helps and helped me stay positive and motivated. Family and friends just reminding me and being there for me. Stay positive and be around a happy environment. Hang out with people who uplift you and not bring you down! Positive energy is key.“The coaches have played a huge part in my return especially coach Q. Just always calling me and making sure I’m okay means so much to me. Teammates as well have been amazing. Emily and Elemy both my closest friends at Syracuse would call and come over and just sit and talk to me about things if I needed to get stuff off my chest they were always there for me!“I never felt alone in this process ever. So many people and fans have reached out to me. Professional athletes like Breanna Stewart and Liz Cambage, which continues to keep me upbeat and helps my faith.”"

Mangakahia’s assertion of feeling “happiness and blessed” says a lot about her character. The reception she’ll likely see when she steps back on the court at the Dome will be an amazing feeling, both for her and fans. To see someone as talented and driven as her play the game she loves again after following her story over the past year will be indescribable.

Tiana is heading into next season with high expectations for herself and for the team. Her conference and national championship thoughts are very real possibilities, as this could be a better overall team than the 2015-16 women’s squad who made it to the National Championship game, eventually losing to UCONN.

With all of the support that Tiana received from WNBA players, college coaches and players, central New York fans, family, and friends, it’s no wonder Mangakahia is looking forward to coming back next season to finish what she started.

Courage, determination, passion, and talent all add up to an incredible story and what all Syracuse basketball fans hope to be the perfect comeback.

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