MORGANTOWN — Kristina King couldn’t have felt worse as she sat near the end of her WVU women’s basketball team’s bench.
The 6-foot-3 senior forward was supposed to be a main ingredient in her Mountaineers’ run to a Big 12 Conference title.
All she could do was watch as she recovered from a right-foot injury sustained in a Dec. 16 game, against Radford, in Charleston.
“It was so hard,” King said. “It was frustrating. I was mad at myself. It was a freak accident. A foot injury is not a normal injury.”
The only good news King received was that she didn’t need surgery, which would have ended not only her season but her college career.
WVU coach Mike Carey initially said King needed a four-to-six week recovery period. She made it back in week four, returning for the Jan. 7 home game, against Iowa State.
King started and played 32 minutes, scoring three points and hauling down six rebounds in a 57-49 win that snapped a two-game Big 12 losing streak.
“I feel pretty good,” King said afterward. My foot is “a little sore. I just have to get back in a rhythm of things and keep on playing. Things will come easier.”
King wasn’t about to delay her return any longer, especially after Wednesday’s disappointing 60-52 home loss to league rival Kansas State.
“Oh, it put a lot of pressure on me,” she said. “People were asking when I was going to get healthy. It’s about the team. I had to take one for the team, even if I was still hurting.”
Carey hated that King played major minutes Sunday, but he believed he had little choice. The game dictated she be on the floor.
“Simply because of what they were running, we needed her in there, more defensively than anything else,” Carey said.
King’s shooting touch is out of sync, which is understandable considering Carey wanted her concentrating on her rehabilitation and not her basketball skills during her five-game hiatus.
She rode around on a motorized scooter that prevented her from putting weight on her foot. She didn’t return to practice until two days before the Iowa State game.
“I think after a few games I should be back to where my foot shouldn’t be sore,” King said.
“I was playing kind of careful. I didn’t want to drive. I was taking more shots than I should have. With more games, I’ll be able to drive to the hole.”
Carey said after the Iowa State game that King would return to her walking boot and likely not practice as the Mountaineers prepare for the Jan. 10 Big 12 game, at Kansas.
“That’s a dream for an athlete — just play games,” Carey cracked.
King’s teammates were elated to have her back Sunday, regardless of where her game is.
“She can run the floor,” point guard Chania Ray said. “She brings us a different type of energy with her length and athletic ability.
“She has to continue to get healthy. She’s not fully back. Defensively, she was a huge piece to this game. It’s nice to have a player like her back.”
She’s ready to get after it in the final 13 games of the regular season.
“It’s my senior year,” King said. “I only have a few months left. I have to get out there and make something happen.”
WVU (14-2, 2-2 Big 12) fell to 15th in the Associated Press rankings, released Jan. 8. The Mountaineers are one of four Big 12 teams in the poll, joining Baylor (No. 5), Texas (No. 7) and Oklahoma State (No. 20).
The fourth season of the Mike Carey Show returns to Keglers, beginning Jan. 15. The show also airs Jan. 22 and Feb. 12. WVU women’s basketball play-by-play man Dan Zangrilli hosts the show, which airs from 7-8 p.m. It can be heard on WRLF-FM 94.3, in Morgantown/Fairmont, WMMN-AM 920 The Ticket, in Fairmont, WMMN-FM 95.7 The Ticket, in Morgantown, and WPDX-FM 104.9, in Clarksburg. The show also airs on TuneIn, the WVU Gameday app and online at wvusports.com.