The injury bug has bitten Missouri women’s basketball hard during the preseason.
Senior forward Jordan Frericks, who has been the Tigers’ leading rebounder the last three seasons, went down with a season-ending ACL tear in right knee two weeks ago.
Mizzou coach Robin Pingeton revealed Tuesday that junior forward Bri Porter also has suffered a torn ACL, an injury that threatens her career.
“It’s so unfortunate,” Pingeton said. “It just breaks your heart for that kid. She’s pretty devastated. She came back this year and was really playing as good of basketball as I’ve ever seen her play, which was really encouraging with us losing Jordan.”
Porter previously tore the ACL in her right knee three times. Now, she’s torn the ACL in her left knee twice for a total of five such injuries.
“Her passion for the game was starting to come back,” said sophomore forward Cierra Porter, who is Bri’s younger sister. “As much as you try not to let injury scare you a little bit, I think that they do subconsciously, but she had finally just gotten over all that. She was having fun and loving the game again. That’s also part of what made it so devastating.”
While the injury bug has wrecked the Tigers’ front court rotation, it hasn’t taken a bite out of expectations for the 2016-17 season.
“I want to make it very clear, expectations for the season haven’t changed,” Pingeton said. “It’s an opportunity for some other people to step up, and we are definitely going to need them to.”
After three consecutive Women’s NIT appearances, Mizzou reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six seasons under Pingeton last season.
The Tigers won 22 games last season, which was tied for the most in program history since 1983-84, and won their first NCAA tournament game since 2000-01.
Duplicating that success with be a challenge without Frericks and now Bri Porter, especially with Cierra Porter still working her way back from Lisfranc surgery during the offseason.
“We are going to have to change the way we do things, but that does not change how big our dreams are,” Cierra Porter said. “Every person on this team wants to do well so bad, and people are going to step up. We’re playing for something so bigger than ourselves now. We’re playing for those two (Frericks and Bri Porter), and I think that’s going to give us an edge other teams don’t have.”
Redshirt freshman Hannah Schuchts gets the next crack at replacing Frericks, but junior Kayla McDowell and freshman Amber Smith also will see an increased workload.
“We’ll have to do it a little bit by committee,” Pingeton said. “I don’t think we’ve got one player that can replace Jordan Frericks and, obviously, losing Bri is a big loss for us as well.”
The Tigers were picked eighth in the SEC preseason media poll, a fact that surprised Pingeton despite back-to-back seventh-place finishes and the recent roster attrition.
“I thought we would be picked much higher … ,” she said. “I’ve got to figure (Frericks’ injury) played a role in those kind of rankings. I’m a little surprised, but it’s preseason and we’ll see where we end up at the end of the season.”
PRESEASON SEC WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
Predicted order of finish
1. South Carolina, 2. Mississippi State, 3. Tennessee, 4. Kentucky, 5. Florida, 6. Texas A&M, 7. Auburn, 8. Missouri, 9. Vanderbilt, 10. Georgia, 11. Arkansas, 12. LSU, 13. Alabama, 14. Mississippi.
Makayla Epps, Kentucky; Victoria Vivians, Mississippi State; Alaina Coates, South Carolina; A’ja Wilson*, South Carolina; Diamond DeShields, Tennessee.
* Preseason player of the year