Hayden could see playing time Thursday

Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 12:40 a.m.

The wait for All-American center Vanessa Hayden's return may finally end Thursday.

Florida women's basketball coach Carolyn Peck spoke optimistically Monday about Hayden's return when the Gators play at No. 16 South Carolina.

"On Thursday, you may even see Vanessa come out and play a little bit," Peck said. "That will depend on how she does in practice (Monday) on getting up and down the floor."

After practice, Hayden was upbeat about her return.

"My leg feels great," Hayden said. "I'm just ready to get out there and help my team in any way that I can. It gets sore and it gets swollen, but I guess when you break your leg, that's what's going to happen.

"I think it's the right time. It's been overdue and I want to play."

Monday was the first day Hayden participated in a full-court practice. She has done half-court drills, playing against defenders and sprints the length of the court.

Hayden broke her left leg and sprained her left ankle Dec. 7, and trainers said her recovery time could last anywhere from six to eight weeks. Her status was upgraded to day-to-day about two weeks ago.

Hayden said the sprained ankle has been tougher to recover from than the broken leg.

"Just running a lot is going to hurt a lot," Hayden said. "I've just got to be mentally prepared. I talked with Brandi McCain and she told me, `Vanessa, it's not going to feel good when you first come back.' You want to go out and do so much; you want to help the team."

Should Hayden play, her playing time also will be determined during the game.

"I really don't know (how long Hayden will play)," Peck said. "I think it will depend on how much her ankle can take as far as getting up and down, changing speed and that kind of stuff. I think realistically, the first game, we'll probably not play her for long periods of time."

Without Hayden in the lineup, the Gators have gone 3-7 and started the SEC schedule at 0-5. They also are mired in a six-game losing streak.

"The toughest part has been sitting on the sidelines and watching my teammates and not watching them win," Hayden said. "It wouldn't be hard at all if we were beating teams and winning. The toughest part is knowing there's nothing I can do but cheer. I feel like there's so much more that I can do than sit there and cheer."

  • FRESHMEN FIVE: After playing with five freshmen at once for the first time in Thursday's game against LSU, Peck decided to start all five Sunday in the starting lineup against George Washington.

    While the lineup still produced a loss, the freshmen may be the starters Peck is sticking to for the next few games, if not the rest of the season.

    "The one main thing I like about our freshman class is that they compete," Peck said. "They compete every day. They are like sponges to learn. The improvement has been seen. They're getting out and getting after it."

    The recent playing time reflects Peck's theory.

    Dalila Eshe, Sarah Lowe and Bernice Mosby started in each of the past three games, and each are averaging more than 30 minutes in that span. Also in that stretch, Danielle Santos has started twice and averaged 29.7 minutes and Brittany Davis started once and averaged 19.7 minutes.

    The only non-freshman averaging more than 10 minutes in the past three games is Tishona Gregory at 22.7 minutes. She also started twice, but lost her starting role Sunday.

    "It's more from our freshmen," Peck said of the competitiveness shown from the players. "They come out and I guess they're real naive about what's at stake so they just go out there and get it."

    Lowe and Mosby have been regular starters all season. Lowe is the only player to start all 18 games and Mosby missed the starting lineup just once.

  • THE SECOND GO-AROUND: Mosby recently moved back to the small forward position, a spot she started at in the preseason.

    But she is a lot more productive there than she was in the preseason.

    The freshman is averaging 15.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in the past two games. In two preseason games, she averaged just 4.5 points and 2.5 rebounds before moving over to the power forward spot.

    Peck said why the move worked this time is that Mosby has some playing experience.

    "I think when we first started out, she had so many different offenses to learn, so much responsibility all at once," Peck said. "Now after having some playing experience, I think that has really helped her now simplify things quite a bit. I think it's helped handle that position."

  • BASELINE NOTES: The Gators' RPI is ranked anywhere between 80th (WBCA) and 84th (Collegiate Basketball News and CollegeRPI.com) by three services after Sunday's game.

    Doris Yon can be reached at (352) 374-5052 or yond@gvillesun.com.

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