UK Women's Basketball

Cats focus on staying healthy

Amber Smith stopped mid-question and tapped her knuckles to the Craft Center practice floor.

"Gotta knock on wood," the sophomore point guard said to a group of reporters at Kentucky's women's basketball Media Day.

Smith had just been asked about last season's injury problems, which have seemingly carried over into this pre-season.

With the graduation of four seniors and the addition of just one player this season, UK has 11 eligible players.

Of those 11, five have had to miss practice or sit out certain drills to mend or avoid compounding previous injuries.

Coach Matthew Mitchell said he's had to "be creative" in practices since they started on Oct. 17.

"I've never been in a situation like that, where so many major contributors are coming back from one injury or another," he said.

Smith is returning from a knee surgery late last season. Fellow point guard Carly Ormerod has to sit out some drills to allow her foot injury to heal. She missed 16 games with a variation of turf toe last year.

Sophomore forward Victoria Dunlap had her knee scoped in the off-season. Lydia Watkins just returned to practice Wednesday after a stress reaction in her tibia.

Senior Eleia Roddy says she's "110 percent" after four surgeries on her right knee in the past three years, but coaches try not to put too much unnecessary wear and tear on her knees in practice.

Those nagging injuries have been a worry for UK heading into this season.

"If we had a concern, that is the concern," Ormerod said. "We just don't have the best of luck with our health. If we remain healthy, though, we'll be fine. We really will be."

When asked whether the Cats got all of their injuries out of the way last year and in the pre-season, Ormerod smiled.

"That would be awesome," she said. "We couldn't have two years of that kind of luck, could we?"

Mitchell said he's confident in his team's ability to bounce back and become a force in the Southeastern Conference this season. He also isn't going to worry about depth or a lack thereof yet.

"The way everyone's performing right now and the intensity with which everyone is practicing right now, I feel optimistic that we're going to be just fine," he said.

"We'll have to be an intense team that plays very hard to be successful, and I certainly believe we have the capabilities of being a very good team."

When Smith got up off the Craft Center floor, she said she didn't think depth and injuries were going to be long-lasting concerns.

"(We'll be fine) as long as we all stay healthy: get enough rest, enough sleep," Smith said. "A lot of players are going to have to play a lot of minutes, but we'll be OK."