Amber Smith has been cleared to play officially, but Kentucky's senior point guard has opted to sit out the remainder of the season and return next season.
"The best decision is for her to come back," Coach Matthew Mitchell said on Friday. "She's six months out (from the injury) and doing great, but not anywhere close to playing."
There are only five games left in UK's regular season, and it didn't make sense for her to waste a year of eligibility like that, the coach said.
Smith tore her left anterior cruciate ligament in late July. She previously had torn her right ACL.
"You do the math there, if we're fortunate enough to win another couple here — I don't know if we can — but if we can, we'll be in the NCAA Tournament, and so the window for her opportunity is closing," Mitchell said.
Smith, who will use this season as a redshirt, said a few weeks ago that the decision was made more difficult by her desire to go out with fellow seniors and good friends Victoria Dunlap and Carly Morrow.
"Wanting to play with them and go out with them because I came in with them," she said to describe her mixed emotions. "We're definitely the class that has changed things around at Kentucky and how things are done."
But she seemed to see the writing on the wall, even in January before she was cleared.
"With every game that passes, I'm sort of leaning toward coming back next year because that's another game I can't play," she said.