LAWRENCE — Kansas women's basketball star Danielle McCray took a night to sleep on it.
She had torn her left anterior cruciate ligament at Thursday's practice, but it was a clean tear, which meant she could possibly play with a brace before the season was over. This senior season was supposed to be special. She was going to take her game to the next level and the Jayhawks would follow, making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2000. She didn't want to give up on that dream without some serious thought.
But when McCray met with KU coach Bonnie Henrickson on Friday morning, she had to face the harsh reality.
"Do you want my opinion about this?" Henrickson asked her.
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McCray said yes.
"I think we need to move on," Henrickson said.
And with that, McCray's career was over. McCray, a native of Olathe, will finish with 1,934 points, good for fourth on the school's all-time scoring list.
"It's such a horrific part of our business and our game," Henrickson said. "It's gut-wrenching watching these kids go through it. I try at some level to figure out why, but there is no why. There's no answer to it."
The Jayhawks, who are just barely staying afloat in their quest for an NCAA berth with a 13-7 record (3-4 in the Big 12), will now have to play without McCray and arguably their second-best player, point guard Angel Goodrich, who tore her ACL for the second straight season.
Henrickson encouraged McCray to opt for surgery now instead of waiting because it will help her chances at a quicker transition to professional ball. Henrickson said she spoke with some WNBA teams who assured her that McCray, the preseason Big 12 player of the year, would still get her chance.
"She's gonna be a pro," Henrickson said. "We'll get her to that point. She's going to be OK. It's not going to be easy, but it's going to be OK."
But will KU be OK? The Jayhawks were predicted to finish tied for second in the Big 12 and had underachieved even before McCray's injury.
"I just feel so horrible for the kids," Henrickson said. "They watch their teammates go down and are sympathetic and compassionate and still have to turn that off and go back and compete. There's a reason this is happening. People can gain strength from us being strong. As a group, we embrace that. We don't have a choice."