File Photo Buford's Andraya Carter goes to pass the ball during a state tournament game last season. The Wolves went on to claim the Class AA state title for the third year in a row.
Andraya Carter has been a part of three straight Class AA girls state titles and is a key reason why Buford is the favorite to win a fourth in a row.
But when basketball practice begins Monday, the Tennessee recruit will be on the sidelines. It isn't known exactly when she will be medically cleared to get back on the court after having ACL surgery in early June.
"Hopefully, we'll have her back by the first of the year," Buford coach Gene Durden said. "She's ahead of where she's supposed to be in her rehab, but we're not going to try to rush it. It's all up to the doctor."
With Carter healthy from the start of the season, the Wolves might have had a chance to prove that they are one of the best teams in the country. But now they will likely be without their leader when they play in the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions outside Phoenix just before Christmas.
"You can't replace a player like Andraya," Durden said. "With her, I thought we had a great chance on the national level."
The Wolves are still loaded with talent, though. They just won't have Carter, who hurt her knee during a pickup game, ready for at least the first month of the season or so.
Fellow Tennessee recruit Kaela Davis is one of the top-rated juniors in the country and Kristina Nelson transferred from Greater Atlanta Christian, giving Buford three of the Gwinnett Daily Post's first-team all-county picks from last season.
Nelson is 6-foot-3 and she joins 6-foot-4 MacKenzie Darrah, a fellow junior, to give the Wolves a dominant front line. Buford also has 6-foot-4 senior Emily Adams and 6-foot-5 sophomore Bree Horrocks.
Gwinnett County girls teams claimed three state titles last year and will be favored to do the same again next March.
Norcross, led by super junior Diamond DeShields, won the Class AAAAA title last season and Wesleyan took the Class A title for its fourth championship in a row and eighth in 10 years. Both schools had just one senior starter last season.
Gwinnett's depth of talent is shown by the fact that it was GAC that Buford beat for the Class AA championship and Mill Creek made the Class AAAAA Final Four with Norcross.
Norcross and Wesleyan will both host early season events featuring some of the tops teams in the state.
The Lady Blue Tip-Off Classic begins on Nov. 16, with Norcross playing McEachern in a rematch of last season's Class AAAAA championship game. Games will also be played Nov. 17 and 19 in a round-robin format.
The Wesleyan Turkey Tip-Off is Nov. 21-23 and is a true tournament. Coach Jan Azar's team, which will also be playing at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona, defeated Buford last season and went to overtime against Norcross before losing.