Gophers women’s basketball guard Gadiva Hubbard had surgery on her right foot Friday and will be out indefinitely.
Coach Lindsay Whalen made the announcement at media availability Tuesday. She said no timetable has been set for Hubbard’s return, but that she hopes the 5-9 junior will be able to return this season.
It is a big loss. One of three returning starters from last season’s team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament, Hubbard was third in scoring (13.6 points per game) and in minutes played (34.9).
It was unclear exactly how Hubbard would have fit in Whalen’s rotation; Destiny Pitts’ move to more of a true forward position and Jasmine Brunson’s impressive fall would have made for a lot of competition for a starting spot. But, either way, Hubbard — who hit nearly 35 percent of her three-pointers last season — would have had a big role.
“We were just starting to get to the point where we were going to start getting the first team and rotations down when she got hurt,” Whalen said. “She was — and hopefully still is — going to be a huge part of our rotation.”
So how will the Gophers make up for the loss? Whalen said she will ask her top three guards — senior Kenisha Bell, junior Jasmine Brunson and freshman Mercedes Staples — to be ready to play both the point and off-guard positions.
“Mercedes will have to step up more as a freshman,” Whalen said. “ ... Everybody has to be ready. But I think those three will be asked to do more, and do more at different positions as well.”
Whalen said there wasn’t one moment when Hubbard hurt her foot. She began complaining of soreness as fall practice progressed. She was favoring the foot, and further tests showed the need for surgery.
“She was pretty down when she first found out,” Whalen said. “I was like, ‘Hey, I’ve been there. I know what it feels like. I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear.’ But I said, ‘We need you. We need you at practice.’ She has a great personality. She’s a super-funny kid. So I said, ‘I need you here to make me laugh, and to hold these guys accountable. You know what this is supposed to look like.’ ”
Opener is a sellout
The Gophers’ season opener — Nov. 9 vs. New Hampshire at Williams Arena — is officially a sellout. That means the record of 14,363 set in February 2004 — Whalen’s senior season as a player — likely will be broken in her first game as coach.
“That’s still one of my favorite memories,” Whalen said of that Penn State game. “Other than going to the Final Four, it was playing Penn State when it was sold out. One of my best memories as an athlete is running out into that atmosphere. I’m excited our players get to experience that. That should be a lot of fun.”
Some of Whalen’s former teammates with the Lynx will be there; both Rebekkah Brunson and Danielle Robinson — who were at Saturday’s open scrimmage — plan on attending most of the games. And Lynx center Sylvia Fowles is planning on flying to town to catch opening night.
There might be jitters — for both the rookie coach and for the players — but Whalen is looking forward to it.
“It’s something you have to experience,” Whalen said. “Thankfully, our players, they get to do that.’’
• Pitts was named to the preseason watch list for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award, given to the nation’s top shooting guard.