Donut Squad

For the second consecutive season, West Virginia's women's team has been decimated by injuries at the center position.

It seems as if it never rains, but only pours, on the middle of WVU's women's basketball team. Last year, Ramika McGee and Yelena Leuchanka both sustained knee injuries that sidelined them for the entire season. The resulting lack of depth forced WVU head coach Mike Carey to go to an open post offense, and while the team adjusted admirably with a nice run through the Big Eat season and an NCAA bid, the Mountaineers were at an extreme disadvantage in the paint for much of the season. Big teams like Boston College and Ohio State dominated WVU inside en route to victories.

Fast forward to the fall of 2004, and things looked better. Leuchanka returned and appeared to be ready to match her juco All-American play in the Big East, and freshman Olayinka Sanni appeared poised to become her understudy. Even McGee, though very limited by two debilitating knee injuries, looked able to contribute a few minutes per game.

Those clear skies turned ugly within the last week, however, as Leuchanka suffered a torn ACL in her "good" knee, which again put her on the bench for the rest of the year. Then, compounding the insult, Sanni sprained an ankle against Providence, an injury that will keep her out for a week.

"Sanni won't play Tuesday, and she will be questionable for Saturday," head coach Mike Carey said Monday. "In the last couple of years, we've had a bunch of injuries all at once. We don't get one; we get two or three at the same time. But, we were able to bounce back last year, and I expect nothing different from this year's team."

One bright spot is that Sanni, a true freshman, should only miss a couple of games at the most. However, McGee, due to chronic pain in her surgically repaired knees, is only able to play in short stretches. The constant pain in her knees makes it difficult to perform conditioning drills, and as a result, the courageous senior isn't able to play long stretches in West Virginia's fast-paced offense.

Sanni's absence leaves junior Jeriece Lee as the only other center on the roster. Last year Carey played Meg Bulger in the post at times, but would prefer not to do so if possible.

On a positive note, Carey observed that freshman Chakia Cole is making excellent progress.

"She's continuing to get better," Carey said of Cole. "She had her first double-double against Providence on Saturday. Her defense has always been excellent, and we are pleased we that. She needs to increase her scoring some, but I think we started to see that against Providence."

Carey also noted that he is still looking for a fifth starter as well as number six and seven players in his rotation.


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