Women's college basketball experienced yet another devastating season-ending injury Thursday. Kansas State star center Ayoka Lee will miss the entire 2022-23 season after undergoing knee surgery, the team announced.
Lee, a senior, intends to return to the team for the 2023-24 season and complete her degree at Kansas State, according to head coach Jeff Mittie.
"I am devastated for Yokie," said Mittie about the setback. "She has battled this knee injury for two years. We were hopeful with a summer procedure and extended rest, she would be able to play this upcoming season. Unfortunately, after meeting with the medical staff the last couple of days she will require season-ending surgery. We will support Yokie through her recovery and rehab and look forward to her returning to the court for the 2023-24 season."
Lee, 22, made her presence felt the instant she joined Kansas State. As a freshman, she led the team with 15.7 points per game. That figure jumped to 19.1 points as a sophomore. She took her game to another level as a junior, averaging 22 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest. Her biggest performance came in January, when Lee dropped an NCAA Division I record 61 points against No. 14 Oklahoma. Lee almost beat Oklahoma singlehandedly, as the team scored just 65 points in the loss.
In a statement, Lee said she was disappointed she wouldn't be able to take the court with her teammates during the 2022-23 season. She confirmed that she intends to return to the school next year.
"As my team surrounds me in support through my recovery, my hope is that Wildcat Nation will continue to surround our team with the same love and support they always have. I look forward to getting back on the court and finishing my graduate degree in 2023-24. Forever thankful and blessed to be a Wildcat."
Lee was considered one of the top WNBA prospects heading into the 2022-23 college basketball season.
Ayoka Lee and Paige Bueckers to miss season due to injuries
Lee and UConn star Paige Bueckers will miss the entire 2022-23 college basketball season due to injuries. Bueckers sustained a torn ACL in a pick-up game, and will need the entire year to recover after undergoing surgery. Bueckers has dealt with a number of injuries since joining UConn, but has produced like a superstar when healthy. As a freshman, she averaged 20 points per game, and won the Naismith National Player of the Year award. She averaged 14.6 points, 4 rebounds and 3.9 assists last season, leading UConn to the national championship game. UConn was defeated by South Carolina in the championship game.
Bueckers and Lee should return healthy and ready to play at a high level for the 2023-24 college basketball season. If both players can retain the skills they showed prior to their surgeries, they'll likely be among the top players selected in the WNBA draft when they are eligible.