The process that Inga Orekhova went through to become eligible to play for the girls basketball team at The Bishop’s School was a grueling one. But potentially having to sit out the postseason could be even more difficult for the junior from Austria.
Orekhova suffered an injury to her right knee in one of the Knights’ final regular-season games, and as the playoffs began, it appeared the most talked-about player in San Diego County this winter might be done for the season.
“We’re hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” Bishop’s coach Marlon Wells said Feb. 18 as he, Orekhova and the team waited for results of medical tests.
Orekohova, a 6-foot-1 junior, helped the Knights to a 19-8 record and a 5-3 Coastal League South mark this season and earned them a first-round bye in the CIF-San Diego Section Division IV playoffs. They were scheduled to host a quarterfinals game on Feb. 23. She averaged 15.9 points per game, third on the team, and led the Knights with 8.0 rebounds per game.
Orekhova didn’t join the Knights officially until Jan. 16, when she scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the team’s 17th game of the season. She was cleared to play that day after a nearly six-month struggle with CIF-San Diego Section officials over her eligibility, in which Wells said other schools resorted to hiring lawyers to stop her from playing.
“We’ve felt all along that we’ve done everything right,” Wells said. “We put up a big fight. Just getting her eligible to play was great.”
Orekhova enrolled at Bishop’s in August, having moved from her native Austria to the United States. Wells said she lives with her guardian, Daniel Prince, a former European scout and recruiter who is now an assistant women’s basketball coach at UC Irvine. Some saw her landing at Bishop’s as suspicious and alleged she had been recruited there. But Bishop’s athletic director Tom Tarantino has insisted that she came to the school for its academic reputation, having had opportunities to attend schools with bigger, better basketball programs.
Eventually cleared to play, she became an “impact player,” as Wells described her, but won’t make much of an impact if her knee injury shelves her for the postseason.
Prince said Orekhova was unavailable for comment as she waited for medical results, and that she was disappointed about her injury and the timing of it.
“She thinks she does have a chance to play, but as her guardian, you just want to be safe rather than sorry,” he said. “We just want to do what’s right for her. If she’s not capable of doing it, she’s just going to have to bite the bullet.”