INJURY: Whitaker’s absence leaves team wondering

J. Michael Moore

Mary Taylor Cowles stopped practice a few weeks ago.

She paused before calling a Lady Topper to half court, pointing out a mental breakdown.

The player was silent, dragging her right sneaker across the floor, taking only sparing glances at her coach.

Cowles moved on, but the player remained.

Camryn Whitaker glided to center court rocking smoothly on her crutches, careful not to aggravate her surgically repaired anterior cruciate ligament.

She tore the ACL on Sept. 11 in an offseason pick-up game.

The injury may have ended the junior point guard’s season, but not her ability to lead the team.

Whitaker rested herself on her crutches and leaned close to the broken player.

She talked softly in her ear, patted her on the back and encouraged her.

The leader inside Whitaker is still very much alive.

Cowles hopes to keep it that way, taking the unfortunate circumstances of injury and turning them into a positive.

“She’s out and we have to make the best of it and move forward,” Cowles said. “I think Camryn is going to benefit from this year tremendously. She’s going to be to my left on the sideline. She’s going to be watching. She’s going to be coaching. I think Camryn’s best two years of college basketball are truly ahead of her.”

Whitaker will travel with the team and watch film to keep up with the new offensive system.

She may be called upon more often to help out individual players, keeping her point guard role off the court.

But the jury is still out on how the team will replace her.

Cowles isn’t sure what type of backcourt package she will throw on the court for the opener against Louisiana Tech Nov. 23. She does know it will include at least two faces.

Junior Leslie Logsdon and freshman Tiffany Porter-Talbert have been splitting time at practice and both see time at point.

“It’s going to have to be double duty,” Cowles said. “I think Leslie Logsdon brings a lot to the point position because of her size, quickness and strength. Leslie is a good basketball player who has the potential to be a great basketball player.”

Logsdon, a natural shooting guard, knows her biggest adjustment will come replacing Whitaker’s voice.

“Now that she’s out and I’m taking over the point guard position some, I’m going to have to be a more vocal leader on this team,” Logsdon said.

The Munfordville junior brings more of a scoring threat to the point position. She connected on 42 three-point attempts last season and averaged 12.2 points per game, the team’s leading returning scorer.

Porter-Talbert, a freshman from Manhattan Beach, Calif., brings enough athleticism and quickness to leave Cowles almost speechless.

“Tiffany is so unbelievably athletic,” Cowles said. “It’s just tremendous. Tiffany is just going to have to learn our structure from the point. She has not really ever had to control the point.”

The 5-foot-9 Porter-Talbert has a vertical leap that takes her half an inch over the rim, Cowles said. With that, Cowles said the freshman will not be the average point guard.

She will be crashing the boards and could be one of the team’s leading rebounders at her relatively small stature.

Similarly, Logsdon can hit the low block, taking advantage of her size at 5-foot-10.

“It will give the defense a different look,” Logsdon said. “There’s going to be several different people handling the ball.”

Junior Elisha Ford and sophomore Sara Reideman have also seen time at point guard and in the backcourt.

From a leadership position, Cowles has seen an explosion from the off guard spot. Senior Kristina Covington has picked up the slack.

“I think Kristina is the natural leader on this team,” Cowles said. “I think she was that even before Camryn went down.”

She’ll have to be that even more now.