Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner confirms she will miss 2017-18 season

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 05: Aleighsa Welch
TAMPA, FL - APRIL 05: Aleighsa Welch /

Fighting Irish forward Brianna Turner confirmed via Twitter on Tuesday that she will sit out the 2017-18 season to continue rehabilitation on her left knee following ACL surgery in April.

Turner suffered an ACL tear during Notre Dame’s second-round NCAA tournament win against Purdue during March Madness and underwent surgery a few weeks later.

Turner’s projection by doctors for a return to normal is January 2018. Fighting Irish Coach Muffet McGraw stated in an interview with the ND Insider that this timetable played a major role in the decision, following discussions with medical staff and Turner’s parents.

"“We discussed the situation with Bri, and we discussed it with her parents,” McGraw said. “And we all agree it’s in her best interests for her to sit out the year. So she’ll continue rehabbing, but she won’t be playing.”"

Obviously, a January return would mean less than two months of playing time before Turner would be thrust into the high-energy, competitive play that March Madness requires. For the sake of her long-term health, McGraw said it is best that Turner focus on getting her knee back to normal.

As much as the team will miss Turner’s 15 points per game, the loss of her defensive prowess — 7.1 rebounds per game and 2.46 blocks per game during the 2016-17 season — will force McGraw to hone the small-ball lineup she employed after Turner went down with the injury.

Another possibility, however, would be to get a substitute at center. The “option is now in the NCAA’s hands,” but there is a very real chance that Nebraska’s Jessica Shepard could be inserted into the lineup at the five position.

According to the ND Insider:

"“McGraw said the Irish filed paperwork on Friday for a hardship waiver for immediate eligibility for Shepard, a junior with two seasons to play for ND. As it stands, the former national Freshman of the Year and All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore at Nebraska must sit out the coming season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.”"

It will be at least a week before McGraw knows if the 6-foot-4 Shepard will be plugging the hole at center.

Notre Dame won the game against Purdue in March after Turner’s exit, but not without offensive struggles. McGraw explained how Turner’s absence altered the offensive execution. “We completely fell apart offensively,” McGraw said after the March win. “It’s just so different without [Turner] when you’re in the ball screen because they have to worry about her.”

So, while McGraw figures out the X’s and O’s for the Fighting Irish — whether with small-ball lineups or the arrival of Shepard (if the NCAA approves) — Turner will continue her education while rehabilitating her knee.

Once healthy, Turner plans to play for Notre Dame as a graduate student during the 2018-19 season.