It is Friday afternoon, two days before the 12th-ranked Maryland women's basketball team hosts second-ranked North Carolina, and Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood is on the sideline as the rest of her teammates run through practice. As the Maryland starters play defense against the scout-team offense, the redshirt senior rides a stationary bike. As the Terrapins sprint and sweat through a full-court, five-on-five drill, Wiley-Gatewood sits off to the side and does sit-ups and stretches her legs.
Wiley-Gatewood is not injured, per se. She will play tonight against the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference favorites, either as a starter for the ninth time this season or as one of the first substitutes off the bench. But she has chronic pain in both knees caused by patellar tendinitis, and to be able to give the Terrapins the 20 quality minutes of playing time she wants to, she has to be mindful of what her body can and cannot do.
"I have old people's knees," Wiley- Gatewood says with a laugh. "It's really hard to do a lot. I just do what I can."
This is not, of course, how Wiley- Gatewood - one of 12 McDonald's All-Americans who play for either Maryland (15-3, 3-1) or North Carolina (17-2, 3-1) - imagined her college career would unfold. The 5-foot-9 guard was a basketball prodigy: the first female player to be named All-State in California four years in a row and the first rising freshman, male or female, to be invited to the Nike All-America Camp. Parade Magazine named her the National High School Player of the Year - over Candace Parker - in 2004.
"She had kind of like a Magic Johnson-type of game, but she was probably even more of a threat to score," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "She could do it all."
But Wiley-Gatewood's knee problems, which began in high school and intensified during her freshman season at Tennessee, have forced her to change her identity as a basketball player. Fellow seniors Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman are Maryland's stars; Wiley- Gatewood is a valuable role player, averaging 4.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 19.2 minutes per game.
Wiley-Gatewood is often limited to shooting drills in practice. She spends an hour in the training room every day, getting heat, electrical stimulation and ultrasound treatments. The day after a game, she sits in an ice bath for 10 minutes.
"The frustration has got to be up to her ears," Toliver said. "I know she's handled that better than anyone else in the country would. I know that I wouldn't be able to be so optimistic and upbeat the way she is. She always has a smile on her face."
No. 2 North Carolina (17-2, 3-1) @ No. 12 MARYLAND (15-3, 3-1)