November 4, 2009 8:19:00 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
The Mississippi State women''s basketball team is back in a familiar place.
Unfortunately, it''s a situation Marneshia Richard would have liked to have avoided.
But on Oct. 22 the senior point guard, who missed all of last season recovering from a knee injury, suffered what could be another season-ending knee injury.
MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said Tuesday at the team''s annual media day that the injury was a "freak thing" that happened when a teammate came down on Richard''s leg and she heard a pop.
"It will probably be about four months before she can jump," Fanning-Otis said. "I do not anticipate her coming back for this season."
Fanning-Otis said the Lady Bulldogs have the option to appeal to the NCAA for another season of eligibility for Richard, if that is what she would like to do. But she said Richard, who is working on a master''s degree, has been through three major surgeries, so the program will worry about that when the time comes.
Richard was in the mix to provide additional leadership in the backcourt for the Lady Bulldogs, who were picked to finish third in the Southeastern Conference by the league''s coaches. MSU returns four starters, including senior guard and first-team All-SEC performer Alexis Rack, and 11 returning starters from a team that went 23-10 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament last season.
Several national publications have ranked MSU No. 21 and No. 25 in preseason rankings. And while the injury to Richard dampens the optimism MSU feels as it prepares for its exhibition opener at 2 p.m. Sunday against Monticello at Humphrey Coliseum, Fanning-Otis believes the Lady Bulldogs still have the pieces in place to have a strong season.
"The whole team will have to step up," Fanning-Otis said. "Armelie (Lumanu) will transition into a point guard, rather than having the versatility we were expecting to get from her before Marneshia''s injury. She makes a lot of things happen for us, so our lineup had to adjust slightly. I think other girls will step up from this. You find out what you are made of when there are injuries or illnesses on a team, and somebody will have to emerge from this injury. If we continue to improve and give a strong work ethic, I see good things happening."
Rack, who is one of the few seniors to have played significant minutes with Richard, said it was hard to see Richard go down again, especially after she worked so hard to rehabilitate from her knee injury. She said Richard''s absence won''t put any additional pressure on her to be more of a leader. She said the Lady Bulldogs should have plenty of depth in the backcourt with Lumanu, sophomore Diamber Johnson, juniors Mary Kathryn Govero and Ashlie Billingslea, and freshman Ashley Jones.
"I do not think about me as an individual leader," Rack said. "I try to do my part and lead by example and watch everyone play their role.
"We want to continue to build off what we had last season. We feel comfortable with whoever is on the court."
Senior Tysheka Grimes echoed Rack''s sentiments. Grimes, a 6-foot senior guard/forward, is one of many players who are versatile enough to play several positions for the Lady Bulldogs. She said she and her teammates will have to re-commit themselves to play harder and to do more without Richard.
"I would first like to say how good of a person and athlete Marneshia is," Grimes said. "She is a leader of this team and she helps us. After the scrimmage game on Sunday, I asked her what she saw and she gave me her feedback so we still look up to her. Losing Marneshia for this season devastated all of us. We are going to miss her presence although we will still have her there with us, we will still miss her presence."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.