Aug. 11, 2010

Courtesy of University of Kentucky Athletics

Kentucky women's basketball senior point guard Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) is out indefinitely after suffering a knee injury during a pickup game in late July while sophomore center Anna Cole (Mondovi, Wisc.) will transfer to a university closer to her home Coach Matthew Mitchell announced today.

Smith, who missed the final 12 games of her freshman season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in her right knee, has now suffered an ACL tear in her left knee. She is scheduled for corrective surgery later this month.

"This is very difficult for Amber to go through, entering her senior season," Mitchell said. "We are aware of how tough this is on her and we are going to do everything we can as a basketball program and her basketball family to support her and her rehabilitation. We are confident she will work hard and get back on the court as soon as possible but in the meantime she leaves very big shoes to fill. Anyone who follows our program knows what a big part Amber Smith plays in what we do. Our entire team will have to pull together to make up for this huge loss."

Smith was an integral part of UK's historic run to the NCAA Elite Eight last season. She started in all 36 games at point guard, averaging a career-high 9.2 points and team-high 4.4 assists per contest. Her 161 assists ranked 10th on UK's single-season list and she currently ranks ninth on UK's career assists list with 333.

Cole, a 6-foot-7 center, has requested to be released from her scholarship in order to seek opportunities closer to home.

"I was very sad to hear of Anna's desire to leave our program," Mitchell said. "She is a player that we felt was benefitting from being in our program and making strides as a person, student and basketball player.  I do respect her desire to continue her college career closer to her family and her home in Wisconsin.  She is a young woman of tremendous character and we appreciate her contributions to our program.  We wish her all the best in her future endeavors."

Cole played in just nine games for the Wildcats last season after being hampered with two stress fractures in her right foot. She averaged one point and over one rebound in 3.3 minutes per game.

"I really loved everyone here," Cole said. "I loved the coaches, the players and the fans and I would never take back this experience. I just want to be closer to home so my entire family can see me play. I miss my family so much and so I've decided to look for a school closer to home."

While the loss of Cole and the uncertainty of Smith will have an effect on the Wildcats' play this season, the Wildcats do return three starters in senior All-America forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.), rising sophomore guard and last year's SEC Freshman of the Year A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.), and junior sharp-shooting guard Keyla Snowden. (Lexington, Ky.). Additional returning letterwinners are Crystal Riley (Memphis, Tenn.), Carly Morrow (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and Brittany Henderson (Pasadena, Calif.). Also adding depth to the backcourt is redshirt freshman Bernisha Pinkett (Washington, D.C.) who will see her first action in 2010-11 after enrolling at UK last January.

Help is also on the way in the form of five incoming freshmen. Kentucky's top-10 recruiting class of Sarah Beth Barnette (Lexington, Ky.), Maegan Conwright (Arlington, Texas), Samantha Drake (Bardstown, Ky.), Kastine Evans (Salem, Conn.), and Jennifer O'Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) featured the Wildcats' first McDonald's All-America selection (O'Neill) and three state players of the year from Connecticut (Evans), Kentucky (Barnette) and Texas (Conwright).