Each time Kentucky warms up for a game the rest of the season, the players will be wearing a constant reminder of Janee Thompson.
"It's just a way to honor her," Matthew Mitchell said of his junior point guard, who had what he called "very successful surgery" on Monday to repair her dislocated ankle and broken fibula suffered in the Cats' loss at South Carolina the night before.
"We will be wearing these as shooting shirts and making sure that she is at the forefront of our minds in everything that we do."
Kentucky had the blue shirts made with the words "OUR B3ST" on them and her nickname "Houdini" on the sleeve to honor Thompson, who will miss the rest of the season recovering. The numeral three is her jersey number.
Doctors are hopeful that Thompson, who had played in 86 straight games, will make a full recovery and return this summer.
"We are extremely optimistic that by the time the players gather up for summer school in June that she will be fully participating and will not know that she was injured, if everything goes like the doctors feel like it will go," Mitchell said.
Mitchell spent several minutes of his news conference prior to No. 10 Kentucky's game against Florida on Thursday at Memorial Coliseum discussing the outpouring of support since Thompson's nationally televised injury.
The coach specifically thanked the South Carolina medical staff and noted that the Gamecocks athletics director even offered a plane to fly Thompson home if she needed it.
"It was an unbelievably uplifting experience and such a tough time when you see a player go through an injury like that," Mitchell said.
"It was very uplifting to see that and just all of the support we received. ... We are a very grateful team and program."
On Monday, Mitchell said he spent time at the hospital and kept Thompson's teammates updated throughout the day. The guard will resume classes, but not until she's feeling better.
He hopes that when she's up to it, she'll keep inspiring her UK teammates in other ways.
"I've told Janee that she has a lot that she can still do for this team," Mitchell said. "She has developed into an incredible leader. ...
"She is a powerful force on our team and will continue to be that and so we are moving in a positive direction in what has been a tough situation."
Goss back vs. Gators
Senior guard Bria Goss, who broke her thumb in early December, has been cleared to play and will be back for the Cats' game against Florida on Thursday night, Mitchell said.
Goss warmed up with the team on Sunday and probably could've played in that game, but Mitchell opted to hold her out.
"I thought long-term for our team that more time was better and so I just made the decision on Sunday that I was not going to play her," Mitchell said.
The guard, Kentucky's best on-ball defender, had been able to practice throughout her injury, so stamina shouldn't be a problem, but it's unclear what she'll be able to do offensively.
"I know she can perform very well defensively," he said. "She is shooting the ball great right now. It's still tender and it's not 100 percent in the hand. ... She is going to give it a whirl on Thursday night and that will help us tremendously."
■ Fellow senior Jelleah Sidney, who has missed 13 straight games with knee soreness, is back practicing and soon could help UK as it goes through league play.
Developing a protocol
In his coaching career, Mitchell had been given plenty of warnings but had never been ejected from a game until Sunday at South Carolina when he was thrown out with 2:18 to play.
"It was very sudden, shocking to me," he said of the ejection. "I didn't even know what had happened by the time I was walking down the corridor there."
Mitchell said he needed to have a better plan in place for how the rest of the game would be managed should he ever have to miss time on UK's bench again. With three first-year assistant coaches at UK, there was no protocol for a "succession of power," Mitchell said, but there will be in the future.
"You have to remember a couple of minutes before this, we had a player whose ankle was turned the other way, so everybody was a little worked up," Mitchell said of Thompson's injury.
"I think (we were) a little shocked all around and then that thing, the ejection, was very sudden. Everyone did the best they could in that situation."