It’s fun to win, but it’s even more fun when you’re putting up career-best numbers. Blair Green is starting to understand that feeling.
Through her first two seasons as a Kentucky Wildcat, Green was part of a program that won plenty of games, although her levels of personal success ebbed and flowed throughout. A hopeful rookie campaign was followed up by a less efficient sophomore season. A double-digit performance was often followed up by a multi-game scoring drought. “Confidence” has seemingly been the buzzword that surrounds the Harlan County native whenever she takes the floor. At this point, she knows questions about the trust she has (or doesn’t have) in herself are coming.
The only difference from the last two years is she’s now embracing them.
14 games into her junior year, Green is brimming with confidence, on the brink of spilling over the top and raining down even more multi-3-point outings. In back-to-back games now against Vanderbilt and Auburn, the 6-foot guard has stepped up in more ways than one.
Green dropped a career-high 22 points in a tightly-contested win over Vandy in which Kentucky was down multiple rotational pieces, including National Player of the Year frontrunner, Rhyne Howard. She played all but one minute of action, even filling in as a makeshift lead guard at one point out of personnel necessity. A few days later against the Auburn Tigers, Green followed up her career-best performance with another team-leading 18 points in 32 minutes played. In total, she’s shot 14-19 over those two games, including a 6-8 clip from beyond the arc. Kentucky came away with wins in both contests.
Why hello, confident Blair.
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) January 22, 2021
Her personal success is making the game of basketball more fun, especially when her hours of hard work over the offseason and into the fall are paying off right before everyone’s eyes.
“I’m just really trying to talk myself up like ‘I put the work in, it’s just time to have fun and go out there and shoot it,” Green said after the win over Auburn on Thursday. “My teammates have done a really great job at just giving me confidence in practice and hyping me up so that helps a whole lot too.”
In reality, Green has always had the full support of her teammates and coaching staff, she’s just now buying into her own brand. She was a four-star prospect out of high school and an SEC All-Freshman Team honoree in 2019. Ahead of the 2019-20 season, Howard said that she thought Green would be the team’s most improved. Somewhere between the end of her first season in Lexington and the start of her sophomore year, Green started to lose some of the confidence that had gotten her to this point in the first place.
Now in year three donning the blue-and-white, Green has found her role among this group of deeply talented Wildcats. But more importantly, discovering that role has led to her regaining some of the confidence she once lost.
“Blair came into this season extremely confident.,” Elzy said on Thursday. “We talked a lot over the summer about not putting herself in a box. Last year she struggled, but there was a certain way she wanted to play offensively, there was a certain way she thought she needed to score.”
Kentucky’s last two opponents, Vanderbilt and Auburn, mixed in a heavy amount of zone defense. For someone as gifted shooting the ball as Green, all she needed to do was put herself in the right position and the rest would fall into place. She’s been flaring to the nail for easy mid-range jumpers and sinking to the corners for wide-open triples.
“This year she’s [Green] just so much more calm, confident,” Elzy continued. “She knows that we have confidence in her. She practices nonstop, so the shots you see her taking and making she practices over and over again. She’s committed to getting better. But the biggest thing is she’s taking rhythm shots. She has found where she can score in our offense and it is a positive for our team.”
Green’s numbers are way up across the board, as her points per game have increased from 5.8 as a sophomore to 9.1 as a junior. She’s shooting 47 percent from the field (over nine percentage points better than last year) and 39.1 percent from deep (nearly eight percentage points better). Green’s a full-time starter now at a high-caliber SEC school and playing like one, too.
But there is still plenty of room for improvement and Kentucky is going to need it if they want a better chance at making a deep NCAA Tournament run. Green scored a combined 23 points through her first four SEC games against four straight top 12 opponents. She posted just two points apiece against both Indiana and DePaul, two more ranked teams that the ‘Cats have faced this season.
Kentucky’s upcoming opponent is another ranked squad, the No. 25 Tennessee Lady Volunteers this Sunday, who are coming off a close loss to an undefeated and No. 3 ranked UConn team. It’ll be a chance for Green to let her confidence shine again, this time on a brighter stage.