FARGO – North Dakota State senior forward Holly Johnson will not play this season after she underwent a second surgery to her foot this week, said head coach Maren Walseth. Moreover, her career at NDSU is over after Walseth elected to not use a redshirt season to bring her back.

“It was a coaching decision from what I need in the program and where we’re going,” Walseth said.

Walseth said Johnson will play elsewhere next year, taking advantage of the NCAA graduate transfer rule that will make her immediately eligible at any school since she will have graduated from NDSU. Johnson played as a true freshman in 2012-13.

The 6-foot Johnson played in 86 career games her first three seasons, starting all 59 in the last two years. She averaged 13.0 points and 5.9 rebounds as a sophomore and 13.2 points and 7.0 rebounds last season.

A foot injury over the summer was expected to be healed by the time the Bison played their first game, but her return was continually delayed.

“I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know all the medical things. I can only work with what the medical people tell me, but I think both her and I and all the medical people were surprised with how her body reacted,” Walseth said. “I don’t think it’s anything she did. She was very diligent in her rehab and I don’t think it was anything she could have really prevented.”

The loss of Johnson this year further hampered a team that already began the season with a lack of depth. The Bison head into their Summit League home game against Western Illinois tonight with seven healthy players and may get an eighth back against the Leathernecks. Walseth said freshman guard Megan Gamble has returned to practice after enduring a knee injury, but her playing status wasn’t to be determined until after practice on Wednesday.

NDSU finished the game last week against South Dakota with just five players after two fouled out. It was another example where having a healthy Johnson could have made a difference.

“The experience that a veteran provides, those things were missed,” Walseth said. “But in no disrespect to her, we never had her this year, so this group didn’t know what they were missing. Those of us who returned knew what we were missing.”

The NCAA graduate transfer rule was instituted by the NCAA in 2006. But it has only in recent years gained notoriety, perhaps first initiated by quarterback Russell Wilson, who transferred from North Carolina State to Wisconsin in 2011 and became immediately eligible. Three years ago, Northern Iowa cornerback Andre Martin transferred to NDSU under that guideline and helped the Bison to an FCS title.

The stipulation requires a student-athlete to enroll in a graduate program not currently offered by their current school.

Johnson, the North Dakota Miss Basketball in 2012 at Minot High, was a Summit League all-academic selection in each of her first three years at NDSU.

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