Depth could be problematic for Tigers

Tuesday, October 30, 2007 | 9:07 p.m. CDT; updated 1:47 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — When Jasmyn Otote limped off the court grimacing during the MU women’s basketball team’s practice on Tuesday, coach Cindy Stein momentarily saw the number of healthy bodies on her team drop to eight. The freshman forward returned to practice minutes later, but her injury was a quick flash of the worst case scenario for the Tigers: a third injury on a roster that had only 11 players to begin the season. Injuries have already begun to take their toll before the season has even gotten underway.

Freshman guard Bekah Mills, who was expected to see a lot of minutes at point guard, tore her ACL and partially tore her MCL and meniscus in her right knee in practice on Saturday and will most likely miss the rest of the season, and sophomore forward Amanda Hanneman is still bothered by a stress fracture in her right foot. Hanneman has eased back into practice since returning to the court on Thursday and hopes her foot improves so she can play in the Nov. 9 regular season opener.

“I can’t do too much right now, but I’m just trying to keep going more and more each day to try and get better,” Hanneman said.

If she isn’t able to play, the Tigers would face Murray St. with only nine available players after starting the season with 11 — one less than Stein would prefer to have.

Having just 11 players this season could leave MU vulnerable if more injuries hit. Mills’ injury is an example of how an injury can pop up at any time and take a key contributor away.

“I was just dribbling off a ball screen,” Mills said. “I heard a crack and knew something was wrong.”

Even with her team down to nine healthy players, the threat of another injury is not keeping Stein up at night. She won’t change anything about the team’s approach because it has fewer available players than she would like.

“As a coach you really can’t think too much about injuries,” Stein said. “You can’t change what you’re doing. We want to play hard, we want to play physical and we want to run, and if they happen to get hurt, they happen to get hurt. That’s part of the game.”

Freshman guard Raeshara Brown said the team is taking a similar mentality.

“You can’t focus on what you don’t have,” Brown said. “Right now we’re focusing on the 10 healthy ones that we do have for the season. If we do that, we can take care of business.”

The small roster will allow all of the players, including the four freshmen, to see game action — a positive Stein was quick to point out.

“Well, everyone’s going to play,” Stein said.” I think that should keep everybody happy.”

KEEPING IT SIMPLE: Because the Tigers are such a young team, Stein has scaled back the team’s plays in practice.

“We’ve tweaked the playbook a lot because of our youth,” Stein said. “We can’t run so many of the complicated sets that we’ve been able to do in the past. We’ve tried to keep things a little bit more simple. Even our calls are more simple than they’ve been in the past.”

FAMILIAR EXPERIENCE: Stein said teaching and watching over a team featuring four freshmen and four sophomores is similar to one she has been through in the past.

“It’s like taking care of my three nieces again,” Stein joked.

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