Sophomore guard Makenzie Helms has left the Nebraska women’s basketball program, the team announced Wednesday.
Helms, a native of East Haven, Connecticut, played in each of the team’s first two games this season as a reserve off the bench. She saw 16 minutes in a 90-62 season-opening win over Oral Roberts and scored 10 points. Against Idaho State on Sunday, she played 11 minutes but was held scoreless.
Nebraska says she’s leaving the team for personal reasons.
“We wish Kenzie well in her future endeavors,” Nebraska Coach Amy Williams said. “Our team is looking forward to opening Big Ten play against Illinois on Thursday.”
Later Wednesday evening, Helms said she would be entering the transfer portal to pursue an opportunity closer to family.
— Makenzie Helms (@kenzhelms) December 10, 2020
“I am extremely grateful for my time as a Husker, and the opportunity to be a part of this program has been a blessing,” Helms wrote in a statement on Twitter. “Nebraska will always hold a special place in my heart. I have grown so much in my time here, and will be forever thankful for the love and support shown by Husker nation. I am lucky to have a place that makes saying goodbye so hard to (do).
“With that being said, this year has made me rethink priorities and I have decided I will be pursuing another opportunity closer to my family and entering the transfer portal. I couldn’t be more excited to come home and see where my final destination will be.”
As a freshman last season, Helms played in 14 games, including roles in each of Nebraska’s last seven of the regular season and Nebraska’s opening game of the 2020 Big Ten Tournament. She averaged five minutes a game in those contests and scored 10 total points. Earlier in the season, she spent time recovering from a string of surgeries to relieve pain stemming from a chronic case of compartment syndrome.
Compartment syndrome develops when swelling or bleeding occurs within a compartment—groupings of muscles, nerves, and blood vessels in your arms and legs. Because the fascia holding those tissues in place does not stretch, this can cause increased pressure on the capillaries, nerves, and muscles in the compartment. Blood flow to muscle and nerve cells is disrupted. Without a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients, nerve and muscle cells can become damaged.
Helms battled leg pain as a result during her high school career. She underwent surgery before her senior season and then again the following summer.
Still, as a senior, she was named the 2019 Gatorade Connecticut Player of the Year and ranked as the No. 27 point guard prospect in the nation.
With the departure, Nebraska will be with potentially just nine healthy players for Thursday night’s Big Ten opener against Illinois.
The roster boasts 12, but transfer guards MiCole Cayton and Nailah Dillard have both missed the first two games of the season. Cayton has dressed for both but hasn’t played. Williams said before the season began they were hoping Cayton would be cleared for full-contact work by the end of the current school semester. Dillard has been in street clothes for each of the first two games. Her status isn’t clear.
“She’s nursing some injury and it’s kind of touch and go on her,” Williams said on Dec. 2. “We’ll have to see if we can get her healthy to see her on the court this season or not.”
Nebraska also saw sophomore guard Trinity Brady exit Sunday’s contest after a lower leg injury suffered in the game’s closing minutes. If she’s unable to go, Nebraska will be down a starter and down to potentially eight rotation players.
Helms was one of just five returning players from a season ago. Williams has been dealt no favors as the Huskers look to build off their 2-0 start.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.