Lindsay Whalen returns to Gophers' bench Wednesday at Wisconsin

Lindsay Whalen previewed the 2021-22 Gophers women's basketball season on Tuesday after the team's first official practice.

Lindsay Whalen was in pain eight days ago, but didn’t know exactly what was going on.

The University of Minnesota women’s basketball team was getting ready to head to Rutgers last Thursday for its first game since Dec. 23, but Whalen wouldn’t be joining the team. Last Tuesday night, she had to go to the hospital for emergency surgery to have her appendix removed.

"Obviously I had a few days early last week before we knew what it was. I was having some pain, some difficulty. I tell you what, doctors, nurses, everybody. The medical staff both at the hospital, around our team has been tremendous," Whalen said Tuesday at Athletes’ Village. "Our administration has been very supportive, obviously our staff stepped up in a big way. I feel like our team is in a really good place. I just can’t thank everybody enough, our medical people are just awesome and I know they’ve dealt with a lot with the pandemic."

Her players were largely unaware of the medical situation Whalen was in.

"At first we didn’t even know anything was wrong. We got a text in the middle of the night saying that she was going in for emergency surgery. So you’re panicking, but she’s tough," guard Gadiva Hubbard said. "She’s coming back earlier than we thought and she’s toughing it out."

Whalen took the rest of last week off, feeling better and having more energy by Sunday.

She watched on TV as acting head coach Carly Thibault-DuDonis led the Gophers to a 62-49 win at Rutgers behind Jasmine Powell’s 19 points. On Sunday, the Gophers hung with No. 10-ranked Maryland and trailed 63-56 after three quarters before the Terrapins pulled away for an 87-73 win. Deja Winters led three Gophers in double figures with 20 points.

Whalen and the Gophers had Monday off, and she returned to the team at practice Tuesday. She’ll be back on the bench Wednesday night, with some restrictions, as Minnesota heads to Madison to face Wisconsin.

Still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, having to be hospitalized for emergency surgery wasn’t exactly in Whalen’s plans.

"It’s been a week, I’m doing my best to ease back in," Whalen said. "I’ll probably have to sit a little more than I’m used to, but I’m doing OK and thanks to everybody for checking in. I was going stir crazy yesterday to be honest with you."