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UPDATED: Bemidji's Hirt deals with another torn ACL, will miss entire Gophers basketball season

Kayla Hirt

Last week during a practice session Kayla Hirt was playing defense during a screen drill with her University of Minnesota women's basketball teammates.

"One of our scout players drove and when I did the cross-over step I was moving fast and there must have been too much pressure on my right knee," Hirt said.

"And I couldn't believe that it happened again."

The 'it' was a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) of her right knee. The injury will require surgery and keep the Gopher freshman off the basketball court for the entire season.

The ACL tear is identical to the injury Hirt sustained to her left knee in July of 2010 which also required surgery and robbed the Bemidji Lumberjack of her entire competitive senior season.

Hirt's main goal since the first injury was to be physically ready to become a Gopher this winter.

"Kayla is somebody special," said Minnesota head coach Pam Borton. "When a coach can recruit a kid like Kayla it is special."

During her limited time on the practice court Hirt was impressing her teammates and the coaching staff, according to Borton.

"Kayla is a competitive kid and her teammates were getting a birds-eye view of what Kayla is all about," Borton said. "Kayla's return to the court was exciting for her and our program. This injury was very disappointing not only for Kayla but for the entire Gopher program because she had worked so hard to come back. She was at 100 percent and practicing extremely well."

"With all of the hard work I had put in to recover from the first surgery I had to wonder 'why me'," Hirt said. "I'm sure the Gophers are going to be great this year and I wanted to be part of it. That makes suffering this injury even tougher to take."

Hirt will probably have her surgery just before Thanksgiving and then will spend the holiday at home with family and friends.

"After the first surgery I realized how much I love basketball," Hirt said. "I started to realize the little things that I appreciated about the game. It was like I had a second chance to love the game."

That appreciation has been translated to her coaches and teammates and they want Hirt to remain a part of the team during her rehabilitation. As a result, Hirt will join them on the bench for all home games and road trips.

"Playing with the Gophers is completely different than high school," Hirt said. "The way we did our workouts and handled our practices was the fast-paced style I was looking for. By being on the bench for all of the games I'll be able to learn what it takes to play in the big time by watching my teammates.

"But this injury is devastating," Hirt continued. "I have the maturity to go through the rehab again but I'm not looking forward to it. You have to train yourself how to walk, how to jog and how to run. It's going to be a drag."

Hirt will be red-shirted this year and will retain her four years of eligibility.

"Actually, the surgery will make the knee stronger," Borton said. "Kayla will have a new body with two brand new knees. And, on the plus side, now we'll get to keep Kayla for five years."

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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