USF’s Kitija Laksa tears ACL, ending her season

The Bulls' top scorer was a bona fide All-America candidate
USF senior guard Kitija Laksa suffered a season-ending knee injury in Thursday's victory against Bethune-Cookman. (Times file photo)
USF senior guard Kitija Laksa suffered a season-ending knee injury in Thursday's victory against Bethune-Cookman. (Times file photo)
Published Nov. 16, 2018|Updated Nov. 16, 2018

USF senior shooting guard Kitija Laksa, an All-America candidate and the Bulls' top scorer, will miss the remainder of the season with a torn right ACL sustained in Thursday's 88-39 romp of Bethune-Cookman.

The university didn't specify the injury, but confirmed Laksa will miss the rest of the season. The Tampa Bay Times learned Friday morning Laksa tore her ACL. She sustained the injury in the third quarter, landing awkwardly near the baseline after trying to catch a long pass in transition.

"This is obviously a very difficult blow for Kitija, who is one of the top players in the nation, and our team," USF coach Jose Fernandez said in a statement released by the school.

"I know with Kitija's will and determination, she will get through this and be back on the floor as a top-level player. It is very tough for our team to lose Kitija's ability and leadership on the floor, but we still have our goals ahead of us and we will continue to work to accomplish those."

The injury represents a crushing blow to the No. 21 Bulls' postseason aspirations. With Laksa, the program's No. 6 alltime scorer (1,764 points), best free-throw shooter and a 38.8-percent career 3-point specialist, USF seemed equipped for a run at the program's first Sweet 16 berth.

Now, they suddenly lack depth at wing, not to mention the outside scoring presence that can stretch a defense and free up the Bulls' assortment of post players.

A 6-foot Latvia native, Laksa averaged 21.1 points and shot 38.2 percent (126-for-330) from 3-point range last season, earning first-team All-American Athletic Conference honors and being named a finalist for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award (nation's top shooting guard).

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Last December, she set an NCAA single-game record with 11 consecutive 3-pointers in a rout of Southern University. She also finished the season with the best free-throw percentage (111-for-115, 96.5) of all NCAA divisions, male or female.

In September, she played for her native country in the FIBA Women's World Cup in Spain.

Because she played in only three games, Laksa qualifies for a medical redshirt and fifth season of eligibility. But she may be more inclined to bypass another season of college and embark on a professional career.