Wiley-Gatewood has been rehabbing her left knee for patellar tendonitis since the preseason. She didn't begin practice until early December and played in her first game later that month. Since then she has had to periodically take breaks from practice. She missed the last three games because of a flare-up of her condition and has not practiced recently. She remains on crutches.
Wiley-Gatewood has spent the time in rehab and will have surgery March 21. It will be performed by team orthopedist Dr. William Youmans, who "will perform a debridement of the patella tendon," Moshak said.
According to clinicalsportsmedicine.com, debridement of the tendon involves excising part of the fat pad attached to the posterior aspect of the proximal patellar tendon near its junction with the patella.
In layman's terms this means the top patellar tendon needs to be cleaned up so it can have a better chance to heal. Wiley-Gatewood's father, Jerry Gatewood, brought his exhibition team to Knoxville in November and said then that his daughter had microtears in the tendon and could eventually need surgery if the tendon didn't heal enough with rest and rehab.
"Surgery does little to disturb the tendon itself, yet patients often report that their patellar tendon pain is absent postoperatively," according to the site.
Wiley-Gatewood, a 5'9 guard from Pomona, Calif., appeared in 13 games this season and averaged 3.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg and 1.2 apg. She had career highs of 12 points at Connecticut, six rebounds at South Carolina and had four steals and four assists against TCU. She was the 2004 Parade High School Player of the Year.
"This is another significant loss for our team," said coach Pat Summitt. "The 13 games she played in, she had a special court presence and impacted on the play of our team. We look forward to getting her healthy and ready for next year."
Wiley-Gatewood is the second national player of the year to be sidelined this season. Freshman forward Candace Parker had knee surgery in September and will take a redshirt year. She wanted to play this season, but her knee wasn't yet ready.
Also, freshman Alex Fuller had ACL surgery in October and also is taking a redshirt year.
The other three freshmen are healthy. Alexis Hornbuckle also has patella tendonitis, but her condition is not serious and has been manageable. Sybil Dosty had knee surgeries in high school, but has been healthy so far this season. Nicky Anosike doesn't have any knee problems.
The permanent addition of Wiley-Gatewood to "Rehab Row" has added to what Moshak has said has been the busiest season ever.
After practice Friday, senior Loree Moore was commenting on the recent news of Spencer's injury. Her remarks are as apropos as ever now.
"We had a full, full roster with a lot of subs," Moore said. "Now we're down to the team we had last year, like eight people. Even as we were doing warmups, we were like, 'Hey where is everybody at?' We're used to having so many people on the court, but it's not like that anymore, so we know we've got to really step it up."