The injury bug is not an equal-opportunity offender. Just ask redshirt sophomore center Viktorija Dimaite.
For the second time in two years, Dimaite suffered an ACL tear in her left knee during a non-contact drill in practice. Last Saturday, Dimaite sustained the injury while running down the court to make a pass.
Her ACL injury last year came only six days before the season began. Dimaite redshirted in 2011-12 after dislocating her right ankle.
“Unfortunately, we’ve already taken a little hit,” coach Amanda Butler said at Wednesday’s UF media day. “Unfortunately, we’re going to have to wait another year until we get to see her debut. I know that she will come through quickly and rehab hard. Her team will stand by her side, and she will stand by theirs when game time comes.”
It will be two and a half years since Dimaite has last played an organized basketball game in the USA. Her last appearance came in March of 2011 when she helped lead Gainesville’s The Rock School to the NACA Division 1A National Championship.
The Gators' mantra heading into the season was “Perfect 10,” a lighthearted play on the number of players on the roster and how high the team’s expectations are for this season.
Now, with only nine active players on the roster due to Dimaite’s injury, depth will become a concern. However, Butler is not worried.
“We often forget there’s only five people on the floor at a time,” Butler said. “When you look at teams that have done really well over the past couple years, they’re typically not playing 10 or 11 people. They’re playing seven people. They’re playing eight people. That’s where a majority of their minutes are. We’re in a great situation with having nine people that are ready to go and capable of starting.”
With Dimaite sidelined, 6-footers Christin Mercer and Ronni Williams will compete for playing time at center.
As a freshman last season, Mercer led the team with a 52.9 field-goal percentage. She came into her own at the WNIT, averaging 8.6 points and five rebounds per game while leading the team in steals with two per game.
Williams comes to UF with lofty expectations. She was the top recruit in the state of Florida for the 2012-13 signing class – the highest-ranked player ever signed by Florida since prep rankings began. Williams is the first Florida signee to be named a McDonald’s All-American.
“Injuries happen,” sophomore transfer guard Antoinette Bannister said. “I still consider ourselves the ‘Perfect 10’. We all do. Now it’s the ‘Perfect 10 … with a scratch.’”
Follow Gordon Streisand on Twitter @GordonStreisand.