Brittney Ezell’s first team at East Tennessee State will not be a team of Destiny.
The Lady Bucs’ coach said Friday night that star forward Destiny Mitchell will sit out the rest of the basketball season as a medical redshirt. She’ll undergo surgery next month to repair an injured knee.
“We don’t want to ruin her Christmas, so we’ll do it after the first of the year,” said Ezell. “The rehab is about four to six weeks. She’ll go through conditioning workouts and then have all summer to get ready for next season.
“As I’ve said, there are worse things than having Destiny Mitchell on our first team back in the Southern Conference.”
The Lady Bucs are 2-5 as they end a 12-day layoff today at fifth-ranked Kentucky.
Mitchell, a senior from Bluffton, Ga., hasn’t played in a game since the season opener at Memphis on Nov. 8. Her injury has been described as a stress fracture, and Ezell said there is also a cartilage component to it.
Mitchell returned to practice late last week to test the knee but was never able to get comfortable with it.
“She’d practice a couple of days and feel OK, but on the off days, when the adrenaline wasn’t running anymore, it was painful,” said Ezell. “She’s trying to be tough, but she’s injured – and there’s a difference between being hurt and injured.
“I told her she can piece together a senior season, or we can fix this and she can come back strong next year. I think she’s comfortable with the decision.”
Mitchell will be sorely missed. She’s an All-Atlantic Sun Conference player who led the Lady Bucs in scoring and rebounding the last two years.
She has averaged 12.8 points and 8.7 rebounds at ETSU and stands just seven points shy of 1,000 for her career. She was again a first-team all-conference selection in the preseason and had 15 points and 10 rebounds in the Memphis game before going out.
Guard Shawn Randall is now the team’s lone senior in uniform, though Ezell fully expects Mitchell to continue to play a leadership role.
“She does a really good job with the younger kids; they respect her and absolutely listen to her,” said Ezell. “There aren’t a lot of players who can sit on the sidelines and have a say, but Destiny can.”
The Lady Bucs haven’t played since losing 92-71 at Vanderbilt on Dec. 3, and they’ll need to be at their best just to make things respectable today in Lexington. Kentucky is 10-0 and outscoring opponents by an average of 98-70.
Six different players are scoring in double figures for the Lady Wildcats.
“They’re really up-tempo with a lot of pressure,” said Ezell. “It’s a major challenge for us, but we’ll try to go in there and play hard and have fun. This is supposed to be fun.”
ETSU’s best player early in the season has been forward Serena Clark, who averages a double-double of 12.3 points and 12.1 rebounds. The 6-2 redshirt junior from Stone Mountain, Ga., is shooting 57 percent from the field.
Junior guard Cara Bowling of Elizabethton leads the team in scoring, at 13.3 ppg., while sophomore guard Brianna McQueen is averaging 12.2 points and 4.0 assists.