Cait McMahan to begin rehab

Lady Vols freshman point guard Cait McMahan will start rehabilitation Sunday after having her right knee cleaned out in an arthroscopic procedure and is expected to miss two weeks before being allowed to return to the practice court, according to Jenny Moshak, the assistant athletics director for sports medicine.

Moshak relayed the latest news Saturday morning after Tennessee practiced before a crowd scattered throughout Thompson-Boling Arena prior to the Vols' football game with Alabama. Cait McMahan, a standout product of Heritage High School in nearby Maryville, Tenn., had the surgery Friday afternoon at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. The procedure was performed by Dr. Greg Mathien, UT's orthopedic surgeon who has replaced the retired Dr. William Youmans, and the Lady Vols learned what they expected.

"Basically it was a diagnostic procedure to begin with so we took a real good look at the knee and in fact Dr. Mathien said it wasn't going to be the 25-cents tour or the 50-cents tour, we were going for the full dollar tour," Moshak said. "We looked at every chamber of the knee and basically found a small pothole, in layman's term, in the thighbone on the articular surface, so we cleaned up all the edges and smoothed that out. She had several loose bodies floating around in the joint so he flushed those out, which should give her some relief.

"The good news is the meniscus was in great shape; her ACL was intact and in great shape. The key is she has a stable knee – because the ACL is functioning properly and in great shape – and she has both medial and lateral meniscus intact and functioning properly and those are your shock absorbers. Now she's got this small pothole in the femoral condyle in the articular surface."

Those words should ring a bell with Lady Vol fans. It was the same diagnosis that sophomore forward Candace Parker got two years ago. She ended up missing a year, but Moshak said there was a major difference in the medical cases.

"A fraction of the size," Moshak said of McMahan's pothole. "There's a big difference, and it's located in an area where there is full meniscal support. So when you're looking at the possibility of it getting bigger – yeah, because she's playing a sport – but as far as her getting the best shot of not having problems, she has a pretty good shot.

"We're taking an optimistic viewpoint on this that the smoothing of the surface and getting rid of the rough edges and getting rid of the loose bodies is going to greatly improve her current situation. Now what has to happen is we have to be smart. If she wants to play four years of college ball it's got to be quality versus quantity. So we're going to do all off-season non-pounding type of conditioning. She's not going to be able to get into the gym and practice hours and hours and hours outside of our practices. She's got to understand that it's quality versus quantity. But can she walk up and down stairs? Yes, she can."

Moshak would have started McMahan's rehab Saturday, but the procedure wasn't held until Friday afternoon, and McMahan was still sluggish and under the influence of medication Saturday.

"She didn't feel so good; that's the drugs," Moshak said.

The Lady Vols staff is optimistic because the doctor confirmed what Moshak thought – McMahan's knee needed to be cleaned out – and it confirmed the cause of her recent swelling. The knee had been repaired after McMahan tore her ACL last December in high school, and the latest injury was the result of landing wrong in a pickup game in September that resulted in a bone bruise.

"It explains her swelling," Moshak said. "Now it's hoped that the cleanup will relieve some of the irritation to where she doesn't swell anymore. She had an injury to create this; she had the bone bruise."

The conditions for her return are rather simple, but McMahan must achieve them.

"Basically it's just a matter of getting rid of all the swelling from the surgery, getting full range of motion, getting good strength, so we're probably looking at a couple of weeks," Moshak said.

In McMahan's absence, junior college transfer Shannon Bobbitt is holding down the point position so far. She is aided by Alexis Hornbuckle, who played the position last year, and juco Alberta Auguste, whose nickname is Bird, and who took practice repetitions Saturday at the spot. The best scenario for Tennessee is if Hornbuckle can remain on the wing because of her rebounding and slashing and newfound shooting abilities. The junior guard is experiencing her own ailments, but the approach with Hornbuckle is one of caution and not really a reason for concern at this point.

"Kind of little things, just trying to stay on top of it," Moshak said. "Tendonitis here, sore hamstring there. That kind of stuff."

PRACTICE SUMMATION: The Lady Vols have completed just over a week of practice – they were given the day off this Sunday and will reconvene Monday afternoon – and although the staff isn't satisfied, the coaches do see reasons to be optimistic because of the play of veterans Hornbuckle, Parker, Nicky Anosike, Alex Fuller, Sidney Spencer and Dominique Redding.

"I think the veterans have certainly carried the day," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said. "Candace has come back a better player. I think Lex is shooting the ball better. Nicky Anosike, I think her overall game, offensively is a little bit better. She hasn't finished great always yet, but that's coming. I think that will come. Her arsenal is a little bit more expanded. Alex Fuller has really, really looked good. She's finished, and she's offensively been very good for us, plays very hard. Sidney Spencer obviously is shooting the ball well so we're excited about her, and I think she's more confident than I've ever seen Sid. And Dom is also a player like Alex. Her level of confidence and what she's doing shooting the ball is now what we hope she can give us in a game. What you've seen in practice is what we need in a game."

Lockwood cited the efforts of the newcomers – Bobbitt, Auguste, McMahan and freshman forward Nicci Moats as a reason the staff is feeling a little better about the preseason than they expected. Moats missed the preseason workouts as she rehabbed a knee and is behind the rest of the team, but she has shown tantalizing prospects of what she can do in the paint and the perimeter.

"The new kids have been a real pleasant surprise, particularly the two junior college kids, Shannon and Bird," Lockwood said. "They are helping us be farther along because they caught on quickly. They're very receptive; they spent extra time studying. Both of these kids give us a dimension that we haven't had.

"The quickness that we have on the perimeter now and having a true point guard and having people who can turn the corner with the ball is a real facet that we haven't had in our tank offensively. They've helped us inch farther along. And Cait has been really solid.

"Nicci Moats has been behind, but we anticipated where she was coming in and not being able to do a lot in the preseason. She's behind conditioning and she's behind in the learning stuff so she's going to have to catch up with the rest of the pack and do so in time. I think we are a little bit ahead. I don't say we're leaps and bounds, but I think we are a little bit ahead of last year at this time."

Moats' development is crucial because Tennessee is thin in the post with the graduation of Tye'sha Fluker and the transfer of Sybil Dosty.

"She does have size," Lockwood said. "She would certainly help us. When Sybil left, she left another hole in the frontline."

But after eight practice sessions the staff has reasons to be encouraged. The 2006-07 team is close-knit, communicative and hungry for a national championship after missing the Final Four last season.

"It's been a good first week," Lockwood said. "The learning has been very good. We've tried not to overload circuits, but we got a lot in. We have been very pleased with the effort. I like the chemistry of this group. We talked about the chemistry. I don't know that I've been around a group here where the chemistry was bad, but I think I've been around a team that was maybe the chemistry was good or decent or fair. This group's chemistry is very good."

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