The Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA waived guard Yuko Oga on Tuesday, just days before the 2009 season tips off. She’ll return to Japan to further rehabilitate her left wrist, which she fractured during a WJBL game in February.

The Yamagata native served as a backup as a WNBA rookie last season for coach Corey Gaines’ team, which missed the playoffs after winning the 2007 championship. Oga, 26, became the second Japanese to play in the WNBA after Mikiko Hagiwara, who was in the league in 1997-98.

After winning the WJBL MVP award in 2007, Oga averaged 2.4 points per game for the Mercury last season.

“Yuko showed a lot of heart in the way she tried to fight through the pain that she’s been suffering during training camp,” Gaines said in a statement released by the team. “As camp progressed, the pain returned and she was unable to play to her potential. Despite the incredible job her doctors did on the surgery, she’s unable to participate in full-contact basketball at this time and needs to return home to fully recover.”

“We respect Yuko’s decision to return to Japan, which was a very difficult one,” added Mercury general manager Ann Meyers Drysdale. “It was unfortunate that she couldn’t continue to perform at the level that she expected of herself. We wish her the best in her recovery.”

The Mercury open the 2009 season at home against the San Antonio Silver Stars on Saturday.

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