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The UK womenâ€™s basketball team faced an ailment much worse than the H1N1 virus last year: the injury bug.
Sometimes injuries, along with suspensions, dwindled the Catsâ€™ roster so much toward the end of the season that UK was forced to dress just seven players in their Feb. 22 contest against Louisiana State.
A small bench often leads to difficulties when dealing with foul trouble and fatigue, something UK head coach Matthew Mitchell is well aware of.
â€œIt gives you the ability to do some things when you have a deeper roster,â€ Mitchell said. â€œYou can play a little more up-tempo, and when you add talent, you can do some things offensively that we were challenged to do last year, like shooting the perimeter shot.â€
If thereâ€™s one group of players the Cats canâ€™t afford injuries to this season, itâ€™s the frontcourt players. Currently, UK has Victoria Dunlap, Anna Cole, Brittany Henderson and guard/forward hybrid Lydia Watkins as their potential low post players. An injury to one of these four could wreck the teamâ€™s rotation and ultimately hinder the teamâ€™s ability to open up shots for the outside players.
Dunlap believes a healthy frontcourt will enhance the chances of a dangerous offense.
â€œWhoâ€™s going to want to guard a 6-(foot)-7 girl (Cole) in the paint and want to deal with people on the outside?â€ Dunlap said.
Ironically, some players on last seasonâ€™s roster stayed healthy despite the fact they were the most unlikely candidates to do so because of their history of injuries.
Mitchell said everyone on the roster this year is â€œin good shape right nowâ€ and ready to get play started.
Mitchell said injuries are not a valid excuse for UKâ€™s 16-16 record last season, but that having healthy players, and more of them, obviously increases UKâ€™s chances of winning this year.
â€œYou hope to have good luck with injuries and we try to prepare for injuries through our strength and conditioning program,â€ Mitchell said. â€œThen we just have to go out and work hard every day and see how it all turns out.â€
See more from the Kernelâ€™s 2009 Basketball Preview: