LINCOLN — MiCole Cayton once said yes to Nebraska women’s basketball. Then she said no. Multiple knee surgeries later, Cayton will play for the Huskers after all.
Late Wednesday night, Cayton announced on Twitter that she was transferring from California — where she played on and off for four seasons — to Nebraska. As a graduate transfer, the 5-foot-9 guard will be immediately eligible.
She originally signed with NU as part of a much-ballyhooed 2016 recruiting class, but she asked out of her scholarship after the resignation of coach Connie Yori. Then-new coach Amy Williams granted the release to Cayton and one other recruit, Kathleen Doyle.
Doyle went on to become Big Ten player of the year at Iowa. Cayton, meanwhile, had a strong true freshman year at Cal, where she averaged 5.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists while starting 13 games. But she tore her ACL in the first game of her sophomore year. She played three games total since then, and thinks she’ll have at least two — and perhaps three — years of eligibility remaining.
And even though she walked away from Nebraska after Yori’s resignation, she never stopped looking at the school as her home away from home.
“I always had this love for Nebraska ever since I went on my visit when I was 16 years old,” Cayton said late Wednesday night from California. “I’ve always loved everything about it — the facilities, the coaches, the people you’re surrounded by, the fans, the atmosphere — and you know what, it’s my time to come back. I talked to my dad about it, going through the recruiting process again, and I said, ‘Nebraska is where it’s going to be.’ It’s time for me to venture off and be away from my family and get focused with basketball.”
Despite multiple surgeries to repair the cartilage in her right knee, Cayton had plenty of interest from schools like Rutgers, Oklahoma, TCU, Utah and Oregon State. She visits a surgeon May 7 in southern California — Cayton lives in Stockton — to determine if she’ll be cleared for basketball activity again.
Presuming she stays healthy, Cayton should have a chance to immediately compete for a starting job.
NU has one returning backcourt starter — point guard Sam Haiby — who is surrounded by inexperience. Sophomores-to-be Makenzie Helms and Trinity Brady are expected to return, and NU welcomes freshmen Ruby Porter and Whitney Brown. On Tuesday, Nebraska received a transfer from Texas Tech guard Nailah Dillard, though it’s not clear if she’ll be eligible to play next season.
Cayton will — four years after she turned down a chance to play her whole career with the Huskers. She said she always liked Williams, who conducted an in-home recruiting visit with Cayton back in 2016 in an effort to persuade her to stay in the class, and had a “really, really good relationship” with Williams’ staff, which remains intact since Williams’ hiring.
“She’s a big-time coach who’s going to do some big-time things,” Cayton said of Williams.
After she graduates from Cal with a degree in legal studies, Cayton already has an academic game plan for her time at Nebraska. She intends to get two master’s degrees — one in education — over three years. Three years would make her a seventh-year senior, but, given her injuries, she thinks she can be successful in petitioning it.
She expects to arrive to Nebraska in June. She loved her days at California — particularly her teammates — but is ready to move on, too, after a challenging time on the court in Berkeley.
“I feel like I’m going to leave all the Cal stuff in the past and continue forward with Nebraska from here,” Cayton said.