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UK Women's Hoops Media Day
by Lyndsey Gough,posted Oct 23 2013 12:00AM
Tuesday, the UK women's basketball team held their media day and open practice. This team is a preason #6 with 4 returning starters, 10 total returning players and 7 McDonalds All-Americans, including both freshmen. Matthew Mitchell, who is entering his 7th season as Head Coach at UK has taken the team to three Elite Eight's in the last four years, including the last two. Last season, the Wildcats set a school record of most won games going 30-6.
The two freshmen could play a vital role in this team's success. Makayla Epps, daughter of UK 1996 National Champion Anthony Epps was one of the top basketball prospects in the state, as well as a McDonald's All-American. Coach Mitchell said in his press conference he was excited to be able to coach Epps. "Makayla is so versatile. She can literally play every position on the floor for us, and we've had some versatile players before. The thing that sort of makes her different is she can legitimately play the one, the point guard position, which is the most difficult position on our team to play.
So she can play them all and play them all well, and so we're really excited about her."
Epps is joined by Linnae Harper, a Chicago native, fellow All-American and the highest ranked recruit to ever commit to UK's women's program ranking in at #5 nationally according to ESPN. Mitchell had quite a bit to say about this talented group of freshmen "They're very talented players. They're high‑character young people that I enjoy being around. They're behind defensively. They're just behind because of where our program is and the quality of players in it. But they're making up ground every day, and this week, which is really the third full week of practice, I've started to see them start to narrow that gap and start to catch up and start to sort of get more comfortable with where they are. But they're both really high‑quality, high‑level players. They'll do well when they come every day and understand how important it is to give a great effort.
You know, Makayla and Kyvin, and Linnae, when they walk into the gym, nobody on our team is concerned with where their recruiting ranking was at all. They're just concerned with can they become a part of our defensive scheme and can they produce offensively. All the recruiting stuff is good because you're getting talented players, but it just doesn't really make anything happen for you on the court. I think that they'll be very successful players here because I like their attitude and I love their talent level." Sophomroe and fellow Chicago-native, Jenee Thompson said she played with Harper in high school, so her talent level came as no surprise, but Epps proved to be a plesant surprise in practice, “I love both of them. I played with Linnae Harper in high school and I’ve actually been playing with her my entire life, so I’m super excited she’s here. (Makayla) Epps is a phenomenal player and she’s been pushing me and Jen (Jennifer O’Neill) to get better every day in practice. They’ve both been doing really well.”
Mitchell called senior forward DeNesha Stallworth the most talented player on the team. When asked if she felt any pressure from that comment she said: "I don’t feel any pressure at all. When he says things like that it is something that players should believe in. I think he is really just trying to build confidence in everybody. I will take full responsibility in doing that and trying to get better for my team.”
This year, there is extra incentive to make and preform well in the NCAA tournament. Kentucky could start their road to their first championship right here in Lexington. UK was announced as a host site for the first and second round of the NCAA regional games March 22-25. If UK were to win in that round, the Wildcats could end up down the road in Louisville, who announced would also host a regional tournament March 29 through April 1. This team has big goals for the season, which tips off November 3rd against Eckard College at home.
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