CHAMPAIGN — Kennedy Cattenhead’s first season as an Illinois women’s basketball player is over before it even began.
The incoming freshman guard tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee last week while practicing at the Ubben Basketball Complex and will miss the 2013-14 campaign.
Illini coach Matt Bollant said the injury occurred on July 16 as Cattenhead was guarding a player who was driving to the basket.
“She was trying to catch up and kind of slide her feet, and (she) took a long step and tore her ACL,“ Bollant said Saturday. “I really feel bad for Kennedy. She’s been working really hard and having a great summer and getting better.”
The 5-foot-10 Cattenhead will apply for a medical redshirt waiver and would retain four seasons of eligibility.
“I think in the big picture, redshirting is a good thing,” said Bollant, who is entering his second season at the UI after five highly successful years as head coach at Wisconsin-Green Bay. “Every one of our players at Green Bay that redshirted was thankful that they did — whether it was a medical or whether it was a player’s decision to redshirt. They’re always better their fifth year than they are their first.”
Cattenhead is no stranger to knee injuries. The Bolingbrook native tore her right ACL during the summer before her high school freshman year. She also had a surgical procedure last summer to repair damage to her right meniscus and then missed several games after tearing scar tissue in the same knee during the second game last season.
Before Cattenhead’s most recent injury, Bollant expected her to be in the playing rotation as a freshman at either the 2 or 3 positions, with the possibility of emerging as a starter.
“She was certainly a kid that was going to play this year,” the UI coach said. “She was vying for a starting spot. It was too early to tell whether she would have got that or not, but she was certainly a kid that was going to play.”
Bollant indicated he expects to have enough backcourt depth for what is shaping up as a guard-heavy lineup to withstand the loss of Cattenhead.
Among the guards at Bollant’s disposal are incumbent starters Alexis Smith and Ivory Crawford, Georgia Tech transfer Sarah Hartwell, top returning reserve Taylor Tuck, and incoming freshman Taylor Gleason.
“You’re never as deep as you want to be, but certainly we’re deeper than we were last year,” Bollant said.
Cattenhead was ranked the No. 14 point guard and the No. 84 player overall in the Class of 2013 by Collegiate Girls Basketball Report. Following her senior season, she was named a Class 3A/4A first-team All-Stater by Illinois Basketball Coaches Association and a special mention All-Stater by The News-Gazette.