- Associated Press - Thursday, August 21, 2014

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee center Mercedes Russell is expected to miss the entire 2014-15 season to give her time to recover from a history of foot problems.

“Mercedes has a history of orthopedic problems with her feet that our sports medicine staff is working to correct,” Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick said Thursday in a university release. “Redshirting this season will allow her the opportunity to return to full health and still have three full years of eligibility with our program. We look forward to seeing Mercedes back in action next season.”

Warlick had said last month that Russell had undergone offseason surgery on her right foot and that she was “out kind of indefinitely.” At the time, Warlick said she was uncertain about Russell’s status for the start of the season.

Russell, a 6-foot-6 sophomore from Springfield, Oregon, was rated as the nation’s top prospect in her class by multiple recruiting services when she signed with Tennessee in November 2012. She averaged 6.3 points and 5.0 rebounds and had a team-high 40 blocks as a freshman while helping the Lady Vols go 29-6 and reach an NCAA regional semifinal.

The loss of Russell hampers Tennessee’s depth, though the Lady Vols may be more equipped than most teams to absorb this kind of loss. Tennessee returns all-Southeastern Conference selection Isabelle Harrison, 2012-13 SEC newcomer of the year Bashaara Graves and two-year starter Cierra Burdick to its frontcourt.

Tennessee opens the season Nov. 14 against Pennsylvania.

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