Danielle McCray’s career came to a premature end, but she still ranked near the top in school history in several stats:
• Points: 1,934 (4th)
• Threes made: 205 (2nd)
• Threes attempted: 544 (2nd)
• 3-pt. percentage: 37.7 (3rd)
• Field goals made: 710 (4th)
• FT percentage: 78.8 (4th)
Danielle McCray seemed almost bulletproof. Every time Kansas University’s All-Big 12 basketball player went down with an apparently serious injury, she always bounced back.
Not this time. The 5-foot-11 senior suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during Thursday’s practice, and the college career of one of KU’s most talented athletes is over.
“It stinks for her, and it stinks for us,” KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “But we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. It will do no good.”
McCray went down early in the workout while performing a routine drill.
“It’s a drill we do every day,” Henrickson said. “It was something she said she had done a thousand times. There was no contact.”
Not everyone saw it happen, but they all knew right away something was amiss when they heard McCray scream.
“She’s a very strong person,” teammate Monica Engelman said, “and to hear her in pain like that was overwhelming. I was amazed and shocked it could happen to her.”
Engelman, a 5-11 freshman from San Antonio, will take McCray’s place in the starting lineup.
“I have some big shoes to fill and I need to step up,” Engelman said. “I never expected this to happen, so I need to be ready.”
Henrickson is confident Engelman can fill in capably.
“She has to grow up in a hurry,” the KU coach said.
At the same time, Henrickson realizes McCray was the Big 12’s second-leading scorer at 19.8 points a game as well as the Jayhawks’ second-leading rebounder.
“Monica just has to be who she’s been,” Henrickson said. “It’s not time to reinvent the wheel. We can’t do that.”
McCray becomes the second KU starter to suffer a season-ending ACL tear. Less than a month ago, point guard Angel Goodrich went down late in the Oklahoma State game. Henrickson is also red-shirting freshman Tania Jackson this season because of complications of a torn ACL suffered prior to her senior year at Lawrence High.
McCray seemed a lock to surpass the 2,000-point plateau, but she finishes with 1,934 points to rank fourth on the school’s scoring chart behind Lynette Woodard, Adrian Mitchell and Angela Aycock.
The Olathe East High product also ranks in the Top 10 in nine other school categories, including second in three-point goals and third in three-point field goal percentage.
After a solid, but unspectacular first two years on Mount Oread, McCray exploded on the Big 12 scene last season, earning first-team all-league honors and almost single-handedly fueling the Jayhawks’ stirring run to the WNIT championship game.
Last summer, she was one of a dozen players selected for the USA Basketball’s World University Games team that won the gold medal in Belgrade, Serbia.
So impressive was McCray’s junior year that she was tapped last October as the Big 12’s preseason player of the year by conference coaches.
Now the Jayhawks will have to finish the season without her.
“It’s a bummer and it sucks,” teammate Sade Morris said, “but we have a game Sunday and we can’t let it affect us.”
Kansas will meet Kansas State at 1 p.m. Sunday in Allen Fieldhouse in its annual Pink Zone game to heighten awareness of breast cancer.
McCray sent word Friday she preferred to delay discussing the injury with the media, but Henrickson stressed McCray wasn’t distraught and was “taking it well.”