Fate delivered a kick to the gut of the University of Akron women’s basketball team recently when it announced that forward Sina King would miss the entire season.
King is currently being monitored and treated for blood clots.
A re-evaluation will come in six months. Despite that, the defending Mid-American Conference East Division champion Zips showed an upbeat and united attitude at Wednesday’s basketball media day at the Tommy Evans Lounge in Rhodes Arena.
King, a third-team all-MAC selection last season, averaged 15 points and eight rebounds per game, numbers that won’t be easy to replace.
“We’ve talked about it with our team,” said coach Jodi Kest, who enters her eighth season leading the program. “We have to understand it is what it is. We had injuries a couple of years ago. We know Sina will be back next year, so that just means other players will have to step it up.”
One of those players is forward Carly Young, who came off the bench and averaged 6.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
But Kest was frank in her assessment of the situation.
“I don’t think one player on our team can fill what Sina King is all about,” she said. “Since I’ve been here, she’s the hardest working player I’ve had.”
Given that King played a part of what was more often than not a seven-woman rotation that includes a top-flight point guard in Kacie Cassell and guard Hanna Luburgh, they will have to rely on players other than Young to pick up the slack.
DiAndra Gibson, a sophomore from Ravenna, has migrated to King’s familiar spot and will likely get some time, among others.
For now, the concern is that King gets better.
Senior Rachel Tecca, last year’s MAC Player of the Year, should know what is going through King’s mind. Tecca, an Archbishop Hoban graduate, lost nearly a full season to a knee injury.
“Definitely, being in her shoes, not medically, but red-shirting wise,” Tecca said.
Her advice: “Just to be involved as much as possible because you can get down on yourself and feel kind of excluded a little bit. Being a student coach, I think, is going to be great for her [and] being a captain on the team and a leader, staying vocal will really help her.”
Tecca tore an anterior cruciate ligament almost two years ago and made a remarkable comeback last season to claim MAC Player of the Year honors by averaging 18.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in 25.4 minutes per game.
She wasn’t at full strength.
She said that she suffered burning in her hamstring after playing. Anyone who watched her in the MAC Tournament could see how fatigue occasionally set in.
Tecca said that there is a significant difference between this year and last.
“All summer I went to Akron Children’s Hospital and had physical therapy three days a week,” she said. “I feel faster, healthier. I no longer have hamstring pain, which I was experiencing for three years now.”
The physical therapy helped her ACL rehab, but in the past she thought that treatment was better for the hamstring issue. As it turns out, it helped both.
“The last two weeks she’s looked fantastic,” Kest said. “She’s getting herself in better shape. Last year, Rachel played about 25 minutes again and to think she was player of the year … the efficiency was just unbelievable.
“For us to be more successful this year, we need her to step up her minutes and play more like 32-33 minutes.”
Timing is everything and in this case, Tecca’s significant improvement comes at the perfect time given the situation with King.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.