Senior guard Taylor Wurtz's season is over due to a back injury.
That doesn't mean her University of Wisconsin women's basketball career is finished.
As expected, Wurtz has elected to seek a medical redshirt, targeting a return to the team in 2013-14.
The 6-foot Wurtz — the team's leading scorer and rebounder last season — is scheduled to have surgery Thursday before beginning a recovery time of six to eight weeks, then starting rehabilitation.
"After talking to my parents, my coaches and doctors, I decided that it was in my best interest to proceed with surgery," Wurtz said in a statement announcing the decision Monday. "I'm looking forward to being back on the court and coming back stronger than ever, and as coach says, `Walk off the court on my own terms.'"
In addition to Wurtz's surgery, sophomore forward AnnMarie Brown is scheduled to have knee surgery Friday, a UW spokeswoman said. Brown, who injured her right knee during practice Dec. 18, has a torn meniscus, UW coach Bobbie Kelsey said before Monday's practice.
Brown initially was ruled out four to six weeks, but that time line could change if the injury is discovered to be more severe during surgery. Brown tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee as a high school senior in St. Peter, Minn. Brown, who was averaging 6.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game this season, first felt pain in the knee when she landed after taking a shot, then when she turned while running sprints
The Badgers (8-5) have nine available players entering Big Ten Conference play Wednesday night at 25th-ranked Nebraska (10-3). "We only have nine healthy bodies, so we have to band together," UW sophomore forward Jacki Gulczynski said. "All we have is each other. Losing people has definitely been hard. Losing Taylor and AnnMarie — those are big shoes to fill for our team. We have to stay together and keep as one."
Kelsey said Monday morning Wurtz — who played in the season's first five games before missing the next eight games — tried recently to see if she would be physically able to resume playing but found she could not. Wurtz is eligible to seek a medical redshirt because she will have played in less than 20 percent of UW's games once the season is completed.
"The health and well-being of Taylor has been and will continue to be our first priority, so we are in total support of her decision to redshirt and have surgery," Kelsey said in the statement released after Monday's media availability. "The decision has always been up to Taylor and her parents with the guidance of our athletic trainer, Holli Dietrick, as well as our team physicians."Wurtz missed two weeks of preseason practice and UW's two exhibitions. Then after treatment including physical therapy, stretching, ice baths and a spinal injection, Wurtz returned for the Badgers' first five games.
"I know I'm going to have to deal with pain through the season," Wurtz said before the opener against UW-Milwaukee. "I am prepared for that. I love the game too much to let something get in the way of me not playing. But there is a balance in there — (thinking about) for the rest of your life. But I'm going to play."
Wurtz averaged 12.6 points and 7.0 rebounds this season and was the team's leading scorer or shared the lead in three of the five games she played, including a season-best 16 against UW-Milwaukee.
Wurtz, who wasn't available for further comment Monday, has said her back trouble began last season and has included stress fractures, disk herniation and sciatic nerve problems. "At this time, it is imperative that Taylor's long-term health guide her final decision," Kelsey said. "Her desire to continue her athletic career has always been secondary, but we are happy that our team doctors exhausted all possibilities to find a viable solution to her on-going back problem that will allow her to finish her athletic career on the court. We expect for her to return next season stronger and more focused than ever."
She earned third-team all-conference honors last season, when she averaged 16.1 points and 7.6 rebounds. Wurtz has played in 97 games in her career, starting 65. She has averaged 10.3 points and 5.8 rebounds at UW and is five points shy of 1,000 points.
Wurtz's planned return next season means she would join guard Morgan Paige, center Cassie Rochel and forward Daria Kryuchkova in the senior class.