COLUMBIA — Two players on the Missouri women's basketball team suffered knee injuries last year and another hurt her knee this preseason. Only junior Bekah Mills has recovered in time for the team's first exhibition game Tuesday night against Missouri Western State University.
"To this point, it's really been 12 (players) on the court, and there's not a lot of breaks," new Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. "Practice is intense. I'm just really impressed with where they're at from a strength and conditioning standpoint."
Missouri Western Griffons
at Missouri Tigers
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
Missouri Western returns 10 players from last year's 7-20 team, including junior Jessica Koch, who led the squad with 14.3 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game. First-year Missouri coach Robin Pingeton spent the past seven seasons as the head coach at Illinois State.
Jim Couretas, the team's assistant director of strength and conditioning, has been in charge of preparing the Tigers for the up-tempo style Pingeton used last year at Illinois State. Couretas is one of seven staff members Pingeton brought with her from Normal, Ill.
"We've really been working on their transitions and fitness, especially in the past couple weeks since practice started," Couretas said.
Couretas said he is confident Mills has recovered after tearing the ACL in her right knee on the first day of practice last year.
"Bekah Mills, to me, has been really impressive," Couretas said, "to have had three knee constructions like she's had and to be able to do the things she's doing on the court right now."
Junior Bailey Gee tore the ACL in her right knee in January 2010, and freshman Maggie Flynn has had knee issues since joining the Tigers this preseason according to Couretas.
Despite the team's injury problems, Mills said she has high expectations going into her first game since the 2008-09 season.
"I think we'll surprise a lot of teams getting up and down the floor," Mills said.
Pingeton said she looks at the exhibition match against the Griffons as a chance to start to determine a new starting lineup.
"You have a lot of new faces that are going to be on that court. I think the depth changes a little bit from where it was a year ago," she said. "It's going to be step one in a long process."
The Tigers graduated four seniors last year, three of whom were starters. This leaves the team with three seniors going into this season. RaeShara Brown, Jasmyn Otote and Shakara Jones have impressed the new coaching staff on and off the court.
"Essentially, (the seniors) are three extra coaches," Couretas said. "Not only have they done a great job for themselves, but they've brought the others along with them."