Tiana Mangakahia has set her sights on becoming a basketball coach after a fresh cancer battle forced her into an early playing retirement.
- Sydney Flames Tiana Mangakahia has announced her retirement as she battles breast cancer
- Mangakahia was recently diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer which has spread to other parts of her body
- The 28-year-old was previously declared cancer-free in early 2020
The 28-year-old Sydney Flames guard on Monday announced she had been diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer and advised by specialists to reconsider life as a professional athlete.
The setback comes four years after her initial diagnosis, shortly after Mangakahia had been selected in the Opals’ Olympic training squad while playing for Syracuse University in New York State.
The Brisbane native remained in the USA for chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, before returning home to rebuild her strength during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Loading Instagram content
She made an emotional return to college basketball in late 2020 and, after being overlooked in the 2021 WNBA draft, returned to the WNBL with the Flames last season.
But the latest diagnosis has forced her hand.
“I never thought I’d be writing this until I was ready to have children with my future husband,” she said in a statement on Monday.
“However, here we go … basketball has been a part of my life for the past 23 years.
“The experiences I have endured and the amount of joy this amazing sport has brought me are too overwhelming to explain.
“Without going into too much detail I have recently been diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer which has spread into other areas of my body.”
The fastest to reach 1000 points in the team’s history, Mangakahia is considered a Syracuse University great.
She managed 13 points, four rebounds and three assists per game for the Flames in 20 appearances this season.
“Growing up, it was my dream to get paid to play basketball, and I am so grateful that I was able to achieve this,” she said.
“I know that regardless of this horrible disease, I will continue to be me and surround myself with those who love and support me.
“Even though my journey is uncertain, what I am certain about is my passion for life and bringing greater awareness throughout the community about this nasty disease.
“I am looking forward to pursuing a career in coaching and giving back to the sport that has given so much to me.
“Cancer does scare me, but not living life to its full potential scares me even more.”
Flames CEO Chris Pongrass indicated the club would assist in Mangakahia’s coaching transition.
“It is hard to express how important Tiana has been for this organisation,” he said.
“This news is truly devastating, and we share our thoughts, prayers and love with Tiana and her family.”