Shafir to miss season, undecided on futureWritten by Jason Mack | | email@example.com
Senior guard Naama Shafir suffered an ACL tear in her right knee Nov. 25 and will miss the remainder of the 2011-12 season. She plans to have surgery by the end of December and is eligible to redshirt and return for the 2012-13 season.
“It is probably the lowest,” Shafir said. “It’s hard. I never thought I’d be injured like that. You can’t really prepare for it. I’m trying to stay positive and be there for the team and my teammates.”
“When it first happened, my heart sank not only because she’s a great player but a great kid,” Toledo head coach Tricia Cullop said. “She’s sacrificed so much to be here and was looking forward to having a tremendous senior year. For it to happen the way it did is very hard to stomach. Knowing she has the opportunity to redshirt and come back certainly gives you hope.”
Shafir hasn’t made any decision on whether she will return next season.
“It’s been only a few days,” she said. “I’m trying to be around people that make me happy and make me laugh and not think about it too much.
“I’m waiting. I don’t want to think about it right now.”
“In all fairness to her, this just happened,” Cullop said. “She’s never been injured or missed a game before. Having to miss the Arkansas State game was devastating for her. Having to sit there and watch her teammates in the Indiana game and see tears welling up in her eyes, that was hard to watch. She needs to stomach and digest this first, and then we’ll worry about the future. We’re not even talking about that right now. I want her to get to a better mental place because it’s devastating. She also is trying to be there for her teammates who she knows need her leadership.”
Cullop also hasn’t looked ahead to next season.
“The possibilities for the future are exciting to think about, but I have more worries,” she said. “I have to put in some new offensive sets. I’m going to wait and think about some of that later. Right now, the task at hand is I have 14 other players that need a lot of attention with things we have to get better as a team to still reach the goals we put forth. We’re not going to change our goals because a player got injured.”
Despite the injury, Shafir plans to help the team in any way possible.
“It’s hard when you really want to help and you don’t know how,” Shafir said. “You try and talk to them but you want to be the one to do it. It’s hard. I don’t know how to explain. I can’t change anything. There’s nothing I can do about it. I just have to stay strong for my teammates.”
“We’re not going to lose her leadership,” Cullop said. “She’s still going to be a part of our practices and games leading from the sideline. Obviously we lose a go-to player that had the ball in her hands a lot of the game. We’re going to have different people try to step up and fill those roles. We’re going to have to practice them. We’re going to have to change some offensive sets that we run. Things that Naama was good at, other kids can score but they may score in a different way.”
Shafir suffered the injury in the first minute of action in UT’s 69-58 win at Indiana.
“I think our players are resilient,” Cullop said. “I was very proud of how they handled the Indiana game, because it happened in the first few seconds of the game. They reacted the way I expected them to with great courage. We won the game. With a young team, that may not have happened.”
Senior guard Courtney Ingersoll stepped up in Shafir’s absence with 20 points and eight rebounds, including shooting 5 of 8 from three-point range.
“Courtney has taken some of that on her shoulders already,” Cullop said. “I’ve really been impressed with her leadership. When we’ve been in some close situations, you can definitely tell she is firing up her teammates and getting them focused on what’s most important.”
The Rockets lost 64-56 at Arkansas State on Nov. 27 in the first full game without Shafir. Ingersoll led the team again with 15 points and five rebounds in 37 minutes. Sophomore guard Andola Dortch scored 10 points with five assists, and senior guard Haylie Linn made three triples along with a team-high seven assists. Freshman Inma Zanoguera also scored nine points and had four rebounds.
“We’ve got a lot of great players,” Cullop said. “Courtney Ingersoll scored 35 points in the two games that we played last week. She would be one that would stand up and say, ‘Hey, I can score too.’ She does have the ball in her hands a lot. Andola Dortch showed in the Indiana game that she can handle that same pressure. We may have to, when she’s out of the game, do point guard by committee. I’d like to see some of the post players in our league match up with the post players we have, and I love the veteran experience we have on the wings with Haylie and Courtney.”
Cullop was already experimenting with several lineups with six new players on the team, a trend that will continue with Shafir out for the season.
“We need to keep Andola Dortch out of foul trouble,” Cullop said. “That’s something we struggled with this past weekend. Janelle Reed Lewis and Inma Zanoguera will have to play some more minutes, but I also think Stephanie Recker could get some minutes out of this situation. If those three players improve, we’re going to have a better situation on our hands.”
The Rockets return to Savage Arena on Dec. 1 for an 11 a.m. game against Iona and host Colorado State at 3 p.m. on Dec. 4.