The Canberra Capitals have left one roster spot open for Gemma Potter as the rising star chases a shock WNBL comeback in the wake of what most feared would be a season-ending knee injury.
The Canberra Times can reveal Capitals coach Paul Goriss will leave a place open in his 12-player squad, declaring Potter will have a place on the team if she can return to full fitness.
Goriss has offered a WNBL lifeline but stresses there is no pressure for Potter to return to the court at all during the 2021-22 season, adamant "we've made that really clear to her, there's no pressure from us that she plays".
Instead, the Canberra mentor's decision to leave a place open for Potter serves as a carrot for the 19-year-old sensation in her rehabilitation after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament in May.
The WNBL season is slated to tip off on December 2 with a draft fixture currently in the hands of clubs, and Potter would not return until January at best.
Potter was a key part of the Capitals' championship run in 2019-20, and Goriss was keen to lure one of Australia's brightest young talents back to the club after her plans to play college basketball in the United States went awry. Then disaster struck when Potter tore her ACL at Basketball Australia's national under 20s championships.
"I've left it open unofficially for Gemma, for a mental standpoint from her, to give her something to work towards," Goriss said.
"I don't think she'll play. She says she'll be right to go by January with some contact stuff, so mentally, I've left it open for her just to go 'mate, your spot is still there for you'.
"We've got some development players who can slot into the 12 if we need, but more so from a mental standpoint with Gemma, going 'there's a spot there for you if you get back, you can obviously play'.
"She's competitive and wants to play, but my thing is you've got to do it right and you'll play when you are ready, when the physio gives you the go-ahead.
"She's ahead of schedule with her rehab but it's also important to do it the right way, getting her back on court and getting her through contact sessions before we put her out there too soon.
"She's going to stay in Melbourne until such time as she is ready to come up to Canberra and be right to go. There is no use making her quarantine when you have to do rehab, because you need a gym, you need a field to run on, you need a basketball court.
"You keep thinking back to what happened to Kristy Wallace or Dan Grida from the Illawarra Hawks. He did his ACL, came back, played the last part of the NBL season and he has just done it again in pre-season.
"That's two cases out of however many, but I just want to make sure, because she is still so young, that we do things right."
The Capitals have signed teenager Shaneice Swain, coming off an ACL tear herself, to the 11th slot on their roster.
"I think she turns 18 this week so she's still young. With Caps we've done a great job of developing future talent and giving future talent an opportunity to play in the WNBL," Goriss said.
"She fits that same mould of Jade [Melbourne], Gemma, Ezi [Magbegor], Maddy Rocci, Keely [Froling]. It's a matter of getting the right ones to give an opportunity to that we think can play and also develop at the same time.
"Giving her time to get into the program, learn how to be a pro, learn off Kelly [Wilson] and Kelsey [Griffin] and those types, it will be great for her."
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