Maci Morris is taking her talents to Europe. The former Kentucky women’s basketball star told WYMT that she’s signed a contract with USE Scotti Empoli in Italy.
“I mean it’s been a dream of mine since I was little, and just to be able to go and experience the world using basketball, I mean I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Morris told WYMT. “That was the main goal – to play professionally, get paid playing ball and just be able to have the experience going overseas.”
Morris, a Bell County native, averaged 15.1 points per game in her senior season at Kentucky, with a team-best 75 threes and 45.2% from long range. She ranks sixth all-time in scoring with 1,692 points, second in threes with 252, and first in three-point percentage, connecting on 41.1% of her attempts.
Buona fortuna, Maci!
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 08th, 2019 @ 10:15pm
Kentucky’s all-time leading scorer has officially been inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
Former Wildcat star Valerie Still, who played at Kentucky from 1979 to 1983, was inducted this evening at the Historic Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville, Tennessee.
I’ve seen a lot of orange this weekend and that’s fine, but there’s a lot of Kentucky blue in here tonight and I’ve seen it and love it!” Still said during her acceptance speech. “I want to thank that little, little girl from Camden, NJ that was told she was crazy to follow her dreams … I didn’t have money, a fancy car, a house with a white picket fence, AAU ball, etc., but I did have dreams. That’s all I needed.”
In her time at Kentucky, Still finished as the school’s all-time leader (men or women) in career scoring (2,763) and rebounding (1,525). The three-time consensus All-American led the program in scoring four-straight seasons with a career average of 23.2 points. At one point during the 1981-82 season, she led the nation in both scoring and rebounding before finishing second in both categories (24.8 PPG and 14.3 RPG).
In September of 2005, Still was inducted into the charter class in the newly-created UK Athletics Hall of Fame, where she was the only female of 88 total inductees.
Saturday the @WBHOF enshrines its latest class and the all-time leading scorer in Kentucky Basketball history will be front and center.
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) June 6, 2019
Congratulations to the former Wildcat on such an incredible honor!
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 21st, 2019 @ 10:45am
University of Kentucky women’s basketball forward Dorie Harrison is no longer with the program.
According to a release from UK, the 6-foot-3 sophomore will not return to Kentucky for the 2019-20 academic year and will transfer to Gulf Coast State Junior College this season.
“Dorie is an important member of our Kentucky family and we all fully support her and the steps she is taking,” said head coach Matthew Mitchell.
Harrison played in 32 games in 2017-18 as a freshman with eight starts, averaging 6.7 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game for the Wildcats. The Nashville, TN native was named SEC Freshman of the Week back on January 30, 2018 after finishing with 15 points and five rebounds against Alabama, along with 16 points and four rebounds at Arkansas.
She missed last season due to personal health reasons.
Out of high school, Harrison was named a 2017 McDonald’s All-America nominee and held offers from Ole Miss, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee.
By Maggie Davis on ©May 19th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
Rhyne Howard continues her domination. After spending a weekend of tryouts in Colorado, the Kentucky freshman has qualified for the 2019 USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team. She’s one of just 12 players from across the nation selected to participate, and she’ll be traveling around the globe to prepare and compete.
After leaving the trials, held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, she’ll have some time at home before heading to Tokyo, Japan in early July for a scrimmage against the Japanese team. Then, she’ll spend several days in Bangkok, Thailand in mid-July to compete for the country’s eighth gold medal.
There were 30 women competing for a spot on the team, and the final 12-player roster includes some of the top talent in the nation, including 10 returning gold medals (including Howard) and two NCAA Champions. Selections were made by the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee, chaired by George Washington University head coach Jennifer Rizzotti.
This summer won’t be the first Howard spends competing on the international stage. She spent last summer in Mexico, helping the U18 team to a 5-0 gold-medal run, earning MVP honors along the way.
This year, she’s the only current SEC player to make the cut. Here’s the rest of the roster:
Francesca Belibi (Regis H.S./Centennial, Colo.); Aliyah Boston (Worcester Academy, Mass./St. Thomas, USVI); Cameron Brink (Southridge H.S./Beaverton, Ore.); Paige Bueckers (Hopkins H.S./St. Louis Park, Minn.); Caitlin Clark (Dowling Catholic H.S./West Des Moines, Iowa); Queen Egbo (Baylor/Houston, Texas); Naz Hillmon-Baker(Michigan/Cleveland, Ohio); Rhyne Howard (Kentucky/Cleveland, Tenn.); Jordan Nixon (Notre Dame/New York, N.Y.); NaLyssa Smith (Baylor/Converse, Texas); Celeste Taylor (Long Island Lutheran/Valley Stream, N.Y.); and Hailey Van Lith (Cashmere H.S./Wenatchee, Wash.).
Howard is the real deal, and she’s representing Matthew Mitchell and the UK women’s basketball team on the international stage (again). It’s going to be fun watching her skills continue to develop over the next three seasons.
Former Kentucky guard and one of the all-time greats to wear a Wildcats uniform, Maci Morris, has been waived by the Washington Mystics of the WNBA.
OFFICIAL: We have waived guard Maci Morris. pic.twitter.com/oRsl1g0v6V
— Washington Mystics (@WashMystics) May 13, 2019
Morris originally agreed to a training camp deal with the Mystics back in April. She appeared in only one game – an exhibition on Friday against the Minnesota Lynx – playing just under four minutes.
Morris was not selected in the WNBA Draft (although ESPN thought she was) that took place in early April but quickly earned an invite from the Mystics.
The WNBA season does not officially tip off until May 24th, so Morris has plenty of time to find a new home before then and be ready for the starts of the league’s 22nd season.
During her four years at Kentucky, Morris was an undoubtedly lethal shooter. She finished her career in Lexington sixth all-time in scoring with 1,692 points and second all-time in made threes with 252. Alongside star freshman Rhyne Howard and fellow senior guard Taylor Murray, Morris helped lead the Wildcats to a 25-8 overall record and a second-round appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Good luck to Morris going forward and we hope to see her back on a WNBA team soon!
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 13th, 2019 @ 10:00am
The fact that former Kentucky Women’s Basketball star Bria Goss just landed her first WNBA contract is a great enough story in itself, but once you read about the journey she’s taken to get there, you’ll appreciate it even more.
As he so often does, Gregg Doyel knocked it out of the park today with this profile of Goss, who just signed a training camp deal with her hometown Indiana Fever after four years of playing overseas and a lifetime’s worth of health problems. In 2017, a tumor forced Goss to have a hysterectomy, an unimaginable pain for any woman, let alone a 24-year-old. In between recovery and playing in Finland and Israel, she also took a job as a bartender at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to pay the bills. Now, she’s one of 15 players competing for 12 roster spots to play in that same arena, the culmination of a lifelong dream.
“After all that time on my journey, of course I wanted to see the light at the end of the tunnel – but it was hard,” she says. “Four years ago when I was hardly going overseas, this opportunity didn’t look real. I didn’t see it coming in a million years. So when I finally got that call to check my email and there’s my contract (from the Fever), I just cried. I was so excited. Not only because I’m getting my first WNBA contract as a 26-year-old woman, but I’m getting my contract with the team I grew up watching.”
You go, Bria. We’ll be cheering for you.
By Maggie Davis on ©May 07th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
Kentucky’s star freshman continued to dominate – this time, on a national stage. Rhyne Howard led her team to the 3×3 National Championship game in Las Vegas, scoring 11 of the team’s 20 points. Ultimately, her efforts couldn’t quite get it done – her team lost by one point to the team representing the University of Oregon.
Howard was one of eight athletes that participated in a minicamp after submitting applications and being accepted by USA Basketball. Howard was joined by North Carolina’s Janelle Bailey (center), Drake’s Rebecca Hittner (guard) and Oregon State’s Destiny Slocum (guard). Howard was the only freshman on her team and one of just 21 freshmen competing in the tournament, out of 72 total participants.
Howard led her team to a 3-1 record in pool play before a 17-9 win over Michigan in the quarterfinal play-in game and 14-12 overtime win vs. Yee’go in the quarterfinals. They defeated NC State in the semifinals before falling to defending national champion Oregon, led by Sabrina Ionescu who earned MVP honors.
The two-day event also served as the 2019 USA Basketball Women’s 3×3 National Team trials. The selected roster will be announced later in May.
Until then, Howard will focus on the 2019 USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team Trials, which will be held later this month at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The 12-member team will be selected at the end of trials with training camp to follow July 5-19 and U19 World Cup competition taking place July 20-28 in Bangkok, Thailand.
Maci Morris served as an integral part of Kentucky’s women’s basketball team during each of her four seasons on campus, but today is all about her. It’s the Bell County native’s birthday today.
While she’s now considered a former Wildcat, the name Maci Morris will remain etched in the Cats’ record books. She’s No. 6 on Kentucky’s all-time scoring list, and she holds the record for highest career three-point percentage at 40.9 percent. She’s ranked No. 2 all-time for career free-throw percentage at 85.1 percent.
? TOGETHER ? pic.twitter.com/t9Ll5hmM76
— Washington Mystics (@WashMystics) May 7, 2019
A lingering injury affected Morris’ performances down the stretch during her senior season, but she – along with fellow senior Taylor Murray and freshman Rhyne Howard – led Matthew Mitchell and the Wildcats to an NCAA berth and a first-round win over No. 11 Princeton.
Morris is celebrating far away from her eastern Kentucky home, as she’s still participating in the WNBA’s Washington Mystic’s training camp. Happy birthday, Maci! Now go earn yourself a spot on the roster.
By Maggie Davis on ©May 01st, 2019 @ 8:30pm
Utah standout Dre’una Edwards has made it official: she’ll be transferring to the University of Kentucky next season. Although she announced the news yesterday, she has now officially signed all of the paperwork required to become a Wildcat.
Her official commitment also means Coach Matthew Mitchell and his staff are able to comment on the Las Vegas native and the immediate impact she could have on the program.
“We are thrilled Dre’una is a Wildcat,” Coach Mitchell said. “She will be an incredible addition to our family. Her positive energy and unbridled enthusiasm are infectious and will impact our program immediately. Dre has a game that fits our system perfectly and her competitive spirit will help us win. We all are excited for the future.”
Unfortunately, Edwards will have to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. However, she’ll be able to actively participate in practices as soon as she arrives in Lexington. Her presence alone will help her teammates in practice, and she plans to join the team beginning this summer.
In one year at Utah last season, Edwards averaged 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game while shooting over 50 percent from the field. She suffered a knee injury late in the year that kept her from playing in Utah’s last four games, but the 6-2 forward still did enough to earn the Pac-12’s Freshman of the Year award.
Along with Edwards, UK will add true freshmen Emma King (a native of Stanford, Kentucky) and Deasia Merrill, alongside transfers Sabrina Haines, Nae Nae Cole and Chasity Patterson.
Next season is shaping up to be a good one for Wildcats.
You can show Edwards some BBN love on Twitter HERE.
By Maggie Davis on ©May 01st, 2019 @ 8:00pm
Kentucky freshman star Rhyne Howard is traveling the country this month, all while representing the University of Kentucky. She’s heading to Las Vegas this weekend, where she’ll compete against some of the best collegiate players in the nation. She’s been selected to participate in the 2019 USA Basketball Women’s 3×3 National Championship. Howard has also just been chosen for the USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team Trials, to take place May 16-19 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The 3×3 tournament is considered highly selective: the participating teams include three teams that qualified from other 3×3 tournaments from the past year, 13 teams representing the top Division I programs across the country and two teams comprised of eight high-caliber athletes. Howard was selected for one of those 16 individual spots, which means she’ll have the opportunity to participate in a “minicamp” that began earlier Wednesday afternoon.
Later this month, Howard will be one of 30 athletes competing for 12 spots on the U19 World Cup team. If she makes the cut, she’ll travel to Bangkok, Thailand in mid-July to represent the United States.
Howard is no stranger to Team USA – she led the national team to the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 gold medal last summer. Her efforts helped the team go on a 5-0 gold-medal run, and she came home with the tournament MVP honors.
At UK, she finished with an average of 16.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. By the end of her rookie year, Howard was named the unanimous National Freshman of the Year by espnW, USBWA and WBCA, along with a slew of conference awards.
If you happen to find yourself in Vegas this weekend and are in the mood for some collegiate basketball, the event will be held for the first time outdoors at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, located in the heart of downtown. If Howard’s team advances to the championship round, the action can be streamed live at www.usab.com/live. That game is set tip at 10 p.m. PDT Saturday.
Make the Bluegrass proud, Rhyne!
By Drew Franklin on ©April 30th, 2019 @ 9:45pm
Matthew Mitchell’s UK women’s basketball program picked up a huge addition to its roster on Tuesday.
Dre’Una Edwards, a standout at Utah this past season, announced she will transfer to the University of Kentucky for the remainder of her college basketball career. The Las Vegas native spent some time in the transfer portal for undisclosed reasons before ultimately picking Lexington as her next home.
“UK is something like home and I’m happy to be a part of the Big Blue Nation,” she tweeted.
In one season at Utah in 2018-19, Edwards averaged 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game while shooting over 50 percent from the field. A knee injury late in the year kept her out of Utah’s last four games, but the 6-2 forward still did enough to earn the Pac-12’s Freshman of the Year award.
Edwards will sit a year per the NCAA’s transfer rule and then start getting buckets the following season.
By Maggie Davis on ©April 21st, 2019 @ 9:46pm
They did it in convincing fashion not once, but twice. Even better? The Wildcats picked up two dominating victories at home on senior day over the No. 14 Auburn Tigers: the final scores were 7-0 then 7-3. Seniors Katie Reed, Abbey Cheek, Jenny Schaper, Kelsee Henson and Sarah Rainwater were honored before the start of game one.
Thanks to Saturday’s rain storms in Lexington, the Cats and the Tigers played a doubleheader Sunday afternoon. Although daunting, the back-to-back action clearly did not affect Kentucky. They won by a combined score of 14-3.
The win over Auburn completed the senior Cats’ conference sweep – during their time in the blue-and-white, they’ve now beaten every team in the SEC at least once. Auburn was the last team left on their list. Before Sunday night, Kentucky’s last win in the series dates back to March 4, 2012.
Check out the highlights here, courtesy of our friends from KY Wildcats TV.
Kentucky is now 28-18 on the season and 11-9 in the SEC. They’ll look to make it a home sweep over Auburn Monday at 7:00 p.m.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©April 18th, 2019 @ 8:00pm
Former Kentucky guard Maci Morris will have an opportunity to make her professional basketball dreams come true.
Today, Morris accepted a training camp invite from the WNBA’s Washington Mystics with her eyes on a roster spot.
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) April 18, 2019
Training camp will take place in early May in Washington, D.C.
As a senior, Morris averaged 15.1 points per game with a team-hight 75 3-pointers and 45.2 percent overall from deep. She finished her career ranked sixth all-time in scoring with 1,692 points, while her 252 career 3-pointers made ranks second all-time. Morris’ career mark of 41.1% from three ranks No. 1 in Kentucky school history.
Back on April 11, ESPN reported on its main ticker that the Seattle Storm had selected Morris with the 36th and final pick of the WNBA Draft.
Instead, it was actually South Dakota State’s Macy Miller who had been chosen.
My apologies, ESPN had it wrong, Seattle picked Macy Miller of South Dakota St at #36, not UK's Maci Morris pic.twitter.com/IYJgkmtUxe
— Kent Taylor (@KentTaylorWAVE) April 11, 2019
It won’t be with Seattle as she thought for a split-second on draft night, but she’ll still have her shot in the WNBA next season.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 11th, 2019 @ 10:41am
As we know all too well here at KSR, typos happen, but man, ESPN really messed up last night.
During the WNBA Draft, ESPN reported on its ticker that the Seattle Storm selected Kentucky’s Maci Morris with the 36th pick — the final pick of the draft — when in fact, the Storm actually drafted South Dakota State’s Macy Miller.
My apologies, ESPN had it wrong, Seattle picked Macy Miller of South Dakota St at #36, not UK's Maci Morris pic.twitter.com/IYJgkmtUxe
— Kent Taylor (@KentTaylorWAVE) April 11, 2019
Ouch. Someone at ESPN owes both Maci Morris and Macy Miller an apology. Even Steve Harvey is cringing.
Thankfully, it sounds like Morris has been invited to the Washington Mystics training camp, but still, what a mess.
By Maggie Davis on ©April 05th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
Just days after being named the WBCA National Freshman of the Year, Kentucky’s star rookie has picked up yet another impressive award. Rhyne Howard has been dubbed the United States Basketball Writers Association National Freshman of the Year. She was presented with the award inside Amalie Arena prior to the start of Friday’s Final Four.
With Friday’s award, Howard is the nation’s unanimous freshman of the year. In addition to the WBCA and the USBWA, Howard was also named the espnW National Freshman of the Year back in March.
She’s the first player in Kentucky women’s basketball history to win a national freshman of the year honor and is just the sixth SEC player to earn the honor from the USBWA.
Howard ended the season leading UK with 16.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. She scored in double figures in 26 games, including ten 20-points or more outings and five double-doubles.
It’s only the beginning for Rhyne Howard.
In other UK Hoops news, both Howard and senior Maci Morris have been named All-American Honorable Mentions by the WBCA.
It’s the first All-American honor for Morris during her UK career, while Howard becomes the second freshman in program history to earn the recognition. Howard and Morris are now the 22nd and 23rd All-American honored players for head coach Matthew Mitchell during his time at Kentucky.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 05th, 2019 @ 11:30am
In the morning post, Jack recapped Maci Morris’ run in the State Farm College 3-Point Contest last night in Minneapolis. Now, we’ve got some video to share of her performance.
In the first round, Maci hit 17 threes to move on to the semifinals; from there, she hit 15 threes to finish in third place. Not too shabby. Central Michigan’s Presley Hudson, who knocked off Morris in the semifinals, went on to win the title after finishing with 23 points in the finals.
Check out Maci making her state proud below:
The Kentucky women’s basketball team fell in the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament, losing to the host and three-seeded, N.C. State Wolfpack. It capped off what will go down as one of head coach Matthew Mitchell’s most impressive years at the helm. The season as a whole was unexpected and inspiring, as the ladies finished fourth – despite being predicted to finish seventh – in the SEC with an 11-5 record and an overall record of 25-8.
After a disappointing season in 2017-18, when the Wildcats missed the NCAA tourney and finished with Mitchell’s worst record as head coach of Kentucky at 15-17, things weren’t expected to get too much better. Even though this year’s version didn’t make it to the Sweet 16, it might have been his season yet, and the future now looks brighter than anyone could have imagined just 10 months ago.
Losing seniors Maci Morris and Taylor Murray is huge, make no doubt of that. Morris is one of the best players to ever wear a Kentucky uniform, finishing sixth all-time in points (1,692) and second in made threes (252). Her final season as a Cat resulted in her shooting over 45 percent from deep, the sixth highest mark in the entire country. Murray, meanwhile, is one of the two or three best on-ball defenders I have ever seen in the blue and white, man or woman, and was the prime initiator on offense as a senior.
The absence of those two will be impossible to notice, but it’s the players coming back and rolling in that are going fill the potential of next season with flirtatious talks of a fourth Elite 8 appearance for the Cats under Coach Mitchell.
Remember, it wasn’t long ago that Kentucky saw eight players transfer and five commits move on to different schools in the span of two years. Last season was an admitted disaster. Now, there’s reason to believe the best days of UK Hoops could still be ahead of us.
So what will the 2019-20 version of the Wildcats look like? Well, let’s take a peek.
Sophomore season Rhyne Howard
If for some reason you have never heard the name of Rhyne Howard yet, familiarize yourself as soon as possible. She is a superstar in the making. Actually, she is a superstar. Already made.
The progress she showed in her development throughout her freshman season was unprecedented for a Kentucky player but not unexpected. The only time we’ve seen a player improve so much from the beginning to the end of a season is when John Calipari is in charge.
In her first season, Howard averaged a team-high in both points (16.4) and rebounds (6.6) per game and trailed only Murray in total steals. She can get it done on both ends; scoring from all areas of the court with deathly crossover and stepback moves combined with cat-like reflexes on defense ranging from swiping away loose balls to pulling up for charges in a split second.
One of my favorite stats about Howard this past season was how she led the Cats in both Usage Rate (26.9) and Effective Field Goal Percentage (53.3). She’s a player you want to have with the ball in her hands late in a game. Her 191 three-point attempts were a team-high, converting on nearly 39 percent of them.
At 6-foot-2, she can shoot over almost anyone and plays more like an oversized guard than an undersized forward. But don’t underestimate her rebounding abilities. She was especially good at pulling in boards off her own teammates misses – she averaged 2.5 offensive rebounds per game, putting her in the top 10 percent among all players in the country.
The only thing Howard truly needs to improve upon is her decision making. While her assist percentage (16.9) was higher than her turnover percentage (14.1), her assist/turnover ratio was under 1.00 – 0.93 to be exact. She also forced herself out of several games by picking up petty fouls early in the first and second quarters. Silly freshman mistakes, more often than not. But still the overwhelming pick for National Freshman of the Year. She’s an elite prospect.
Without Murray to lead the way, Howard could find herself handling the ball even more often than this season and the turnovers could spike as a result. But that also brings me to my next point, which is – no pun intended – the addition of a point guard who transferred from Texas.
Three transfers now eligible to play
Starting with Chasity Patterson, the prized transfer Matthew Mitchell was able to pull a commitment from back in December. Patterson was the top-ranked point guard in the class of 2017 before committing to Texas. She was listed as the Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year, but averaged only 7.6 minutes in her lone year as a Longhorn, leading to her wanting to transfer.
She was listed as the fourth-best overall player in her class and named a McDonald’s All-American while also winning the 3-point shooting contest at the event. Patterson is her high school’s all-time leading scorer with over 3,000 career points and she averaged 28.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game as a senior in the Houston area. The stats and awards are all there, but she’ll be coming off a year-long hiatus from organized basketball. She’ll have to sit out until the spring semester but is expected to come in and be an explosive ball-dominant guard who can lead the offense and take over a similar role to Murray on both ends of the court.
Sabrina Haines is an Arizona State transfer listed at 5-foot-10 who is an excellent sharpshooter. She led the Sun Devils in three-point shooting and free-throw percentage her sophomore season while starting 32 games. She isn’t anywhere near the shooter that Morris is, but making over 38 percent of her three-pointers as a second-year player at ASU on 75 attempts is a major boost.
Haines missed the majority of her junior season with an injury, ultimately leading to transfer.
The final transfer is out of N.C. State. Nae Nae Cole, a 6-foot-3 center spent three years with the Wolfpack before deciding to head to Lexington. Her stats don’t stick out, but she’ll immediately come in as the tallest player on the roster at 6-foot-3, something the Wildcats desperately lacked this past year. She was a four-star recruit coming out of high school.
Coach Mitchell will add two freshmen to next year’s roster; four-star recruit out of Georgia, Deasia Merrill, and three-star recruit from Lincoln County, KY, Emma King.
Merrill is a 6-foot-2 forward listed as the 66th best recruit in ESPN’s rankings, providing even more frontcourt size and depth. What excites coach Mitchell about her the most is that she can stretch the floor and force the defense to respect her jump shot.
“Deasia brings so many different things to our team with her ability to really stretch the floor,” coach Mitchell said. “She can score so many ways, including out on the perimeter, but can also go inside and be physical and finish. She’s going to be a real asset for our team for years to come.”
We saw KeKe McKinney and Tatyana Wyatt try to extend their range out to the perimeter, although with mixed results. Wyatt’s confidence in her jumper improved as the season progressed and she became a much more versatile player on offense because of it. Adding another player that can bend the defense and put them in defending positions they aren’t used to is insanely valuable. Kentucky likes to run and shoot; Merrill should fit perfectly into the formula.
As for King, she’s been a Kentucky commit since before her junior season even began. She’s been a fan of the blue and white for even longer and brings another shooter into the fold. She’s 5-foot-11, which is good size for a guard who likes to get off shots quick and around screens.
Coach Mitchell calls her a “terrific shooter” with “incredible range” but it might be a while before she sees real minutes, depending on just how terrific of a shooter she actually is. The backcourt depth next season won’t be much of a problem with four potential ball handlers along with Blair Green’s outside shooting.
Returning players – guards
Jaida Roper and Amanda Paschal – the two juniors entering their final season at Kentucky – will be a staple of the Wildcats backcourt. They might actually be the most important aspect of next year’s team, essentially replacing Morris and Murray.
Howard and Patterson will likely receive most of the primary ball-handling duties, but Roper and Paschal have shown that they are more than capable of taking over that duty themselves.
They were usually the first two players off the bench and Roper acted more like a “sixth-starter” towards the end of the season. I’m especially excited to see how much better Roper can get after a full offseason. She isn’t the pest that Murray is on defense, but on offense, she can run with anyone. She was second on the team in assists behind Murray and played with more passion and intensity than any other player.
She’s only 5-foot-6 but plays like you just insulted her entire family. There is a locked aggression inside of her every game that she is just looking for an excuse to break out. She shot nearly 35 percent from three with her now iconic rainbow jumper and is a threat to sneak into the paint for saucy assists. If she spies an opportunity to add some “Roper-flair”, she’s going to do it. Most importantly, she’s going to do it without turning the ball over.
Paschal’s role this past season wasn’t as necessary as Roper’s, but with the loss of Murray and Morris, she’s still going to see plenty of minutes. Her playing time dipped in the middle of last season but spiked again down the stretch when the team needed experienced players who can reliably hold the ball and initiate the offense.
She can be a bit reckless driving to the rim at times, as evidenced by her 30.1 field goal percentage as a junior, and needs to improve upon her timing when attacking the paint, but it’s clear she can get there when she wants. Some of it has to do with her being somewhat undersized at 5-foot-7 and attacking players in the paint well over 6-feet tall. But what’s important to note is that she can get to the rim. It’s going to be about picking and choosing her spots correctly and better adapting to making those last second passes when she realizes that she can’t get a clean look off. With the bevy of shooters that will surround her, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Returning players – forwards
Let’s start with the two starters from last season – Wyatt and McKinney.
Both will enter next season as juniors, which is a big deal in its own right because having these two for another two seasons is massive to solidifying the frontcourt.
Yes, the rebounding issues might still persist, but we saw towards the end of the season just how much Wyatt has improved and they both want to be able to knock down that outside shot.
Between the two, they attempted 87 triples, but made only 20 of them, slightly under 23 percent. You don’t have to be a math wizard to know that is a poor shooting clip. Any improvement from that area would create a situation where Kentucky can almost always have five shooters on the floor at all time. That is how you build a modern-style basketball team.
But what Wyatt does so well is compete with opposing bigs. She’s usually not the tallest at 6-foot-2, but hardly gets outworked. She ranked well above average in securing offensive rebounds and became much more adept at scoring in the post as the season progressed. Being an incredibly hard worker doesn’t always show up in the stat sheet but she’s one of Kentucky’s most important players going forward. Outside of Howard and *maybe* Patterson, she might be the most important player
She’ll be guarding the tallest player on the opposing team and will usually have a height disadvantage. If she can get better at not fouling in those situations (she was one of the worst in the entire country in terms of foul percentage) and stay in the game for longer stints, her impact will be felt all 40 minutes.
McKinney missed some time with an injury near the end of the season and she didn’t look 100 percent once she did return in the NCAA Tournament but make no mistake, she’ll be starting once again in 2019.
She’s the teams best rebounder not named Rhyne Howard and quick on her feet at 6-foot-1. Like Wyatt, she is constantly battling on the boards and pulling down her teammates misses for extra opportunities.
Backing up those two will once again be Blair Green and Ogechi Anyagaligbo. Green should see plenty of improvements after her first season playing in college, starting with simply being more comfortable on the floor. Too often did she just look out of place when she wasn’t spotting up for shots – although, she is a hell of a shooter (making over 36 percent on 44 attempts from three). The experience is what matters most for her. She’s going to be a big-time player at Kentucky, but it’s going to be up to her if that comes next season or a couple of years from now.
As for Anyagaligbo, she’ll join Roper and Paschal along with transfers Haines and Cole as the fifth senior on the roster. Anyagaligbo saw her playing time stabilize to roughly 10-15 minutes per game over the last several weeks of the season and she performed well. She has an issue similar to Paschal in that when she sets her mind on shooting, that’s exactly what she’s going to do no matter what happens. At 6-foot-1 she can muscle through most, but still isn’t tall enough to get off tough looks in the paint. If she’s spotting up for 6-to-8 foot jumpers she’ll knock them down nine times out of 10, but it’s getting to those spots that she didn’t too all that often.
The frontcourt is going to go about five (and possibly six) players deep, so playing time could be a bit harder to come by with Green, Anyagailgobo, and the transfer Cole all fighting for backup minutes. A good problem to have for a head coach.
All-in-all, next year’s team should be an improvement on the 2018 version, despite losing two legends in Morris and Murray. The depth improves, there is more size, plenty of experience, efficient shooters at every position, and a young superstar to make it all work. The hype should be unlike anything UK Hoops has seen since before the mass exodus of players a few years ago.
By Maggie Davis on ©April 03rd, 2019 @ 7:00pm
The UK women’s basketball team’s season may be over, but Rhyne Howard is far from done – she’s still raking in the awards. Kentucky’s star rookie has been named the 2019 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association NCAA Division I Freshman of the Year, presented by Adidas. That’s a mouthful, but it’s also a huge deal for Howard and the Kentucky program.
Howard was selected as the SEC Freshman of the Year a few weeks ago (after winning the weekly conference award a record-breaking eight times), which put her in the running for this national award against the top player from every other conference in America. The other qualifying factors?
“Energy, enthusiasm, effort and effectiveness — these are hallmark pillars that each coach hopes their first-year, student-athletes will contribute to the team,” WBCA Executive Director Danielle Donehew said. “Rhyne most certainly contributed to the University of Kentucky’s success, and we recognize and applaud her immediate impact this season.”
Based on Howard’s season, “immediate impact” barely does it justice. She ended the season leading UK with 16.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game; she scored in double figures in 26 games and recorded five double-doubles. Her name can already been found all over the UK record books – she’s in the program’s top three for multiple freshman records (points per game, total season points, steals, double-figure scoring, 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage). She’s the program’s first freshman to lead the team in scoring and rebounding since UK All-American Valerie Still.
In addition to her WBCA Freshman of the Year award, she’s already claimed several others, including espnW National Player of the Year and the AP’s SEC Newcomer of the Year. She was also named to the WBCA All-Region team, the first-team All-SEC and the SEC All-Freshman Team.
Her freshman season was one of the most impressive rookie seasons in program history. If the one-and-done culture existed in women’s hoops as it does for the men, Howard would most certainly be gone. Luckily for Coach Matthew Mitchell, the UK Hoops’ program and the BBN, Howard has three more years to continue making an impact – and leaving a legacy – in Lexington.
By Nick Roush on ©April 01st, 2019 @ 12:00pm
The best three-point shooter in the history of the Kentucky women’s basketball program will represent the Big Blue Nation in Minneapolis.
Maci Morris will wear a Kentucky jersey one more time as a competitor in the State Farm 3-Point Contest at the Final Four. A 41.1% career three-point shooter, Morris will have to beat out eight others to bring the title back to Lexington.
The event at Minneapolis’ Target Center will air April 4 at 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN. If you’re in the area and want tickets to Thursday’s event, click here.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©March 25th, 2019 @ 9:27pm
The six-seed Kentucky Wildcats have been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament after falling in Raleigh, North Carolina to the three-seed N.C. State Wolfpack by a score of 72-57.
Rhyne Howard finished with 21 points and seven rebounds while Maci Morris‘ final game at Kentucky closed with 18 points and four made triples. The Wolfpack were led by 26 points from Kiara Leslie.
The game kicked off with a Morris three and back-to-back tie-ups courtesy of some excellent defense from Tatyana Wyatt. Kentucky was commanding the offensive glass, quickly pulling down board after board. It was a near perfect start for the Wildcats, but one that didn’t take long to turn the other way.
N.C. State jumped out to a quick 10-5 lead before Maci Morris drilled a jumper to bring the game within three. Rhyne Howard came out looking to attack, but was forcing things early before finally settling in after the first few possessions.
Kentucky’s offense soon went into a rut and the Wolfpack capitalized, building a 12-7 lead at the first TV timeout. N.C. State made its first four three-point attempts but Howard soon got into her groove.
Despite the team offense struggling, Howard was looking to score at every turn. She had a couple of and-ones within two possessions of each other and was getting to her spots with ease. If she was in a one-on-one situation, she was taking it to the rim or pulling up for an easy jumper.
The first quarter ended with Kentucky trailing 25-17, but the Cats were attacking the offensive glass with consistency and the Wolfpack had missed its next three triples.
KeKe Mckinney opened up the second period with a massive block on N.C. State’s Elissa Cunane to get the momentum swinging back in Kentucky’s direction.
The Cats would scoop up an additional six offensive rebounds in the second after corraling four during the first 10 minutes. They actually finished the half with more offensive rebounds (10) than defensive (8).
With those extra chances, Kentucky did a solid job of making sure they didn’t go to waste. The halfcourt defense finally picked up, as well and the Cats forced six turnovers in the frame compared to only two in the first. Howard and Taylor Murray continued to drive the offense as Morris sat on the bench after picking up her second foul in the first period.
The Wildcats were able to trim the lead down to 25-22 in favor of the Wolfpack, but could never cut it under three before the half.
Howard made a couple more shots before the intermission and after the first 20 minutes, Kentucky found themselves trailing 35-30 despite 15 points from Howard.
The Cats fired up 15 three-point attempts in the first half but converted on only three of them. The team shot below 32 percent overall and were outrebounded by eight.
The third quarter was a back-and-forth battle throughout. Both teams were exchanging threes and Kentucky never let the Wolfpack out of its sight. At one point, the Cats cut the lead all the way down to three at 44-41 after a massive triple from Wyatt.
Every time N.C. State wanted to pull ahead by six or eight, Kentucky would bring it back to four or five. Roper hit the biggest shot of the game up until that point at the third quarter buzzer to keep the Cats down, 53-48, heading into the fourth and final quarter.
But then things started to get away. Kentucky went the first two minutes without scoring and the Wolfpack finally managed to push the lead to double-digits. Wyatt picked up her fourth foul and things felt all but over. Morris made some shots down the stretch to keep things from getting too out of hand, but the ending was never in doubt for the last five minutes.
The Wildcats finished the game forcing 16 N.C. State turnovers but shot only 9-29 from three.
In the end, Kentucky’s season comes to a conclusion in Raleigh, 72-57.