KNOXVILLE, TENN. >> Tennessee's backcourt sustained two major losses, with Andraya Carter forgoing her final season of eligibility and Te'a Cooper out the entire season with a knee injury.
Carter issued a statement Wednesday saying she was ending her college career to recover from a series of injuries. Lady Volunteers coach Holly Warlick said Cooper injured her left knee while playing basketball at home.
That leaves Tennessee with only nine healthy scholarship players. Cooper made 15 starts as a freshman last season and averaged 8.6 points and 2.1 assists. She ranked fourth on the team in scoring.
"It's the card we've been dealt and we've got to go with it," Warlick said. "The kids that we have, they're solid. If we didn't have the summer we've had, I'd be worried. But we have put in the time, they've put in the effort and it shows. It really, really shows. I feel really confident in what our kids can do."
Warlick said sophomore guard/forward Meme Jackson has undergone arthroscopic surgery on her left knee and is expected to be ready for the start of preseason practice.
Tennessee also announced Wednesday the hiring of Heather Ervin as director of recruiting operations and player personnel. Sharrona Reaves was hired as the Lady Vols' assistant coach and recruiting coordinator in April, replacing former Tennessee player Kyra Elzy, who spent four seasons as an assistant and associate head coach. Elzy was rehired by Kentucky this spring.
The Lady Vols went 22-14 last season and set a school record for losses. They recovered down the stretch to reach a regional final for the fifth time in the last six years.
Recruiting troubles in the past year prevented the Lady Vols from upgrading their roster much since the end of the 2015-16 season. Their additions were freshman shot-blocking specialist Kamera Harris, Winthrop graduate transfer Schaquilla Nunn and ASA College transfer Cheridene Green, who won't play in the 2016-17 season as she recovers from knee surgery.
Carter made 82 career starts at Tennessee and posted career averages of 6.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists. Last season, the 5-foot-9 guard made 25 starts and had 4.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists while averaging 26.2 minutes.
Carter underwent season-ending shoulder surgery during the 2012-13 season and was redshirted.
"After loving the game so much for so long, it is hard to imagine forgoing an opportunity to play for one more year," Carter said. "Yet, the past four years have taken a toll on my body that I can no longer ignore. The injuries that I once effortlessly pushed aside and played through are beginning to catch up to me and have long-term effects."
Warlick said Carter also had been dealing with a knee problem.
"We discussed only practicing twice a week or only playing in games, but anyone who knows me knows those options were unacceptable to me," Carter said. "If I was going to continue playing basketball, I wanted to practice, condition, lift weights, be with my teammates and be able to work as hard as I could to get better every single day."
Carter graduated in August 2015 with a degree in communication studies and will remain in school this year working toward her master's degree in sport psychology. Warlick called Carter "a great ambassador to this program."
The Lady Vols open the 2016-17 season Nov. 11 at James Madison.