Kayla Lewis has had trouble staying on the court during her first two seasons with the Gators.
As a true freshman, she missed 19 games due to multiple leg injuries. Last season, she appeared in just three games before suffering a stress fracture in her foot against Florida State on Nov. 17. She received a medical redshirt.
Lewis battled another injury during the summer, eventually undergoing surgery to repair a hernia.
On the court, Lewis has shown flashes of the talent that helped her become Miss Georgia Basketball in 2010. The problem has been staying healthy.
“Frustrating is one word that you could use,” coach Amanda Butler said.
Lewis offered a more pointed view: “Injuries always suck.”
Her most recent ailment has been the most unusual.
In late August, Lewis began experiencing discomfort in her abdomen. One day, her belly button appeared to pop out.
Doctors diagnosed her with a hernia. Surgery was one possibility, but the oft-injured Lewis was hesitant to miss time during the preseason, so she considered playing through the injury.
After talking it over with family and the coaching staff, she decided to undergo surgery early in September.
“I was kind of bummed because it took me out for four weeks in the preseason,” she said. “But there was no upside to it. It could only have gotten worse.”
With the season less than three weeks away, Lewis has no limitations.
She received a platelet-rich plasma injection following the surgery to help expedite her recovery.
Lewis is attempting to regain the form that made her the first true freshman to start a season-opener for Florida since Sha Brooks in 2005.
“Kayla makes such a difference,” Butler said. “Her length and athleticism is really something that is impactful when she is on the floor.”
Freshman Sydney Moss received an up-close view of Lewis’ athleticism while playing pick-up basketball during the summer.
“I was guarding her, and I boxed her out and jumped to go get the ball,” Moss said. “She jumped right over me and grabbed it.
“Having her is really going to help this team.”