Coach Amanda Butler thinks freshman Chandler Cooper can be an effective player, but an injured left arch has thrown a wrench into the plan.
Cooper is on crutches and her left foot is in a protective boot after an MRI revealed a hairline fracture of a bone and a partial tear of an arch.
“Frustrating is the best way to describe it,” Cooper said. “Especially when everybody is such a big part of the team. One man down changes the whole dynamic of the team.”
Surgery, although not immediately necessary, remains a possibility if the injury does not heal properly. Cooper said Florida’s medical staff will re-evalute her in three weeks to create a plan moving forward.
“If I don’t take care of it, I will have to have surgery,” Cooper said. “That’s why [the coaching staff] is being so careful.”
The injury first developed during a practice before Florida’s game against Florida State on Nov. 15. Cooper played 25 minutes and scored two points in the 98-67 loss to the Seminoles, but she has not played since.
Butler initially said Cooper would be day-to-day and hoped she would return when the Gators traveled to Las Vegas last weekend for the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout. Cooper dressed for the team’s first game — a win against N.C. State on Friday — but she did not play during the trip.
“We’ve been just trying to rest her,” Butler said. “We’ve just got to get her back to where she is pain-free.”
Cooper hopes to return before Florida begins Southeastern Conference play against Kentucky on Jan. 3.
Butler said she was unsure of the timetable for Cooper’s return.
“When someone goes down, whether it is for a semester or a season or a game, then someone else has to fill in,” Butler said. “That’s what we’ve got to do.”
In three games this season, Cooper averaged 4.7 points in 26.7 minutes. Though celebrated as an elite shooter prior to the season, Cooper’s defense drew the praise of Butler and her coaching staff.
Cooper notched nine steals in three games and became a critical part of Florida’s full-court press, which has helped the Gators force an average of 21.4 turnovers per game this season.
“Chandler is more than just a great shooter,” Butler said. “She is a really smart player.”
The injury will cut into Florida’s already depleted roster.
Redshirt freshman Viktorija Dimaite is out for the year after suffering a torn ACL before the season. With Dimaite and Cooper out, the Gators are down to nine active players.
Senior Jennifer George is confident Cooper will return this season.
“Anyone that is missing or out is frustrated,“ George said. “But she’s going to do everything she needs to do to get back out here.”