UK Women's Basketball

Healthy Ormerod a boost for UK women

There is a stop watch in Carly Ormerod's head ticking down the seconds until the end of her Kentucky career.

Each second of playing time and practice time is becoming more valuable.

When she saw that the end of the regular season was fewer than 10 games away, Ormerod knew what she had to do.

Instead of sloshing and splashing away on the underwater treadmill in the UK training room, the senior guard decided it was time to join her teammates on dry court again.

"I'd rather go out and play and run the risk of the pain coming back versus sitting out practices and being away from the team," she said matter-of-factly on Friday.

Ormerod, her coaches and trainers had been cautious since she returned from reaggravating a right-foot injury on Jan. 3.

The former Miss Kentucky Basketball and Sacred Heart standout was playing in games but was sitting out of practices to keep the swelling and pain of the turf toe and sesamoiditis from returning yet again.

The crippling combination had kept her out of 16 games the season before and seven more this season.

So instead of practicing on the Craft Center court, she was on the sidelines like a coach. It was frustrating to not be in practice with her teammates.

"It was hard as a senior and a leader of this team to be that disconnected," she said. "My type of leadership is really by example, and I couldn't do that. I felt like it hurt the team."

It definitely hurt her game.

"It's hard to go from not doing anything all week — trying to sneak in and try to get shots up at the gym when my trainer isn't looking — to going out and playing full speed," she said. "I wouldn't even get to shoot around on the day of the game."

The lack of time in the gym showed in her stats. In the seven games Ormerod played but did not practice for, she averaged 2.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and about 18 minutes a game. The senior guard made 20 percent of her shots from the field and 11.1 percent from three-point range.

"I was frustrated with the situation," Ormerod said. "I felt like I knew I could give more to this team and to step up and really be a factor."

It was a close loss to Louisiana State that made the final decision for Ormerod.

In that game, the shooting guard failed to attempt a shot in 27 minutes of play. It was not the way she wanted her UK career to end, so she called head coach Matthew Mitchell and said she was done being overly cautious and ready to join the team again.

"She's a senior and has a real sense of urgency; she wants to win; she wants to do everything she can to know that she pushed it to the limit," he said.

Ormerod knows reinjury is a possibility, and she said doctors have told her that she cannot have any more injections to help decrease the pain. But she's willing to play as long as her foot will keep slipping into her Nikes for games and practices.

"I don't want to end this season with any regrets or what-ifs about my playing time or my practice time," she said. "That would be really hard for me to live with down the road."

Since she returned to full practice — sans extreme running drills — Ormerod is back to her old self and says she is experiencing no pain.

In her three games back (all starts), Ormerod is second on the team in scoring at 11.3 points a game, and she's grabbing 4.7 rebounds with almost three assists.

Her shooting percentages have improved, too, with averages of 32 percent from the field and 33 percent from three-point range.

In her first game back after practicing at full speed, Ormerod contributed a season-high 19 points, four rebounds and three assists in 38 minutes against Florida.

"She's playing her game much more closely to what she can and has done in the past," Mitchell said. "She's playing like she used to."

If UK has any hope of a late surge in the Southeastern Conference, it's going to need Ormerod to be the old Ormerod in her final six games.

"She means so much to us as far as the little things," Mitchell said earlier this season. "She can jump-start us. The experience, the great character she has and just being a tough, hard-nosed player are so valuable."

Ormerod isn't just about the "little things," Mitchell said, but she also understands the big picture, too.

"The thing about her, more than anything, is she loves to wear that Kentucky uniform," he said. "That's what we need in this program; that's the kind of spirit we need, the kind of enthusiasm the players need to have."