KeKe McKinney is leaving the Kentucky Women’s Basketball Team, but their hopes for the future aren’t leaving with her. On Saturday, KeKe McKinney surprised the Big Blue Nation with a bombshell announcement that she will be putting her name in the transfer portal.
BBN , you have been amazing.
God it is your turn to lead the way?
— #3? (@ke_baby05) April 2, 2021
The senior forward started in every single one her games this season and averaged 30.1 minutes per game. Furthermore, McKinney averaged 6.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. There’s no denying McKinney was a major contributor to the ‘Cats, but there’s no denying her spot can be filled, either. The question is: Who is going to fill it?
Personally, Treasure Hunt is the first name to come to mind. Although the highly-touted freshman struggled to find playing time throughout the majority of the season, she was a key contributor during the final stretch.
Specifically in Kentucky’s final regular season game and SEC Tournament run, Hunt was instrumental to the Wildcats’ wins. Potentially more important than KeKe McKinney.
During the three game stretch, Hunt averaged 7.6 points and three rebounds per game on an average of 20 minutes per game. In comparison, during the same three game stretch, McKinney averaged five points and six rebounds per game on approximately 29 minutes per game.
These differences may not jump off the page at first glance, but here’s the kicker: Hunt averaged more points, while shooting two-times better from the field than McKinney.
McKinney struggled throughout the year to be an efficient scoring threat despite her other contributions. Hunt, who is also fantastic on the defensive end of the court, could be the consistent scorer the ‘Cats were in dire need of last season.
When people discuss the next breakout player for Kentucky, Owens name is often left out of the discussion. Nevertheless, the 6-foot-4 senior won’t be overlooked for long.
Owens is the tallest player for Kentucky and has shown she knows how to use this gift to her advantage. Although it may not show up on the stat sheet, Owens was an excellent tool for Kentucky when they needed a defensive presence down low. Not only was she noticeable on the court, but she was even more noticeable when she was off it.
In Kentucky’s upsetting SEC Tournament loss to Georgia, Owens didn’t play a single minute. In what isn’t a coincidence, Georgia center Jenna Staiti went nuclear. The star Bulldog dropped 20 points and 12 rebounds on the Wildcats’ heads to lead her team to victory.
Coach Elzy stated Owens’ lack of minutes was a coaching decision, but after the brutal loss, it appeared more like a learning experience. Owens got on the court both games following Kentucky’s loss to Georgia and showed serious promise.
In the Wildcats’ two NCAA Tournament contests, Owens averaged six points while only playing an average of 7.5 minutes per game. Now, I’m not saying Owens is going to necessarily be a key scorer for the ‘Cats next season, but she certainly could help.
On a team that struggled all season against height, Owens may be the perfect remedy. If she can hold her own on offense, Owens may be taking a lot of McKinney’s former playing time.
Robyn Benton may be Kentucky’s secret weapon next season. While averaging the 7th most minutes last year, Benton was the Wildcats’ fourth leading scorer. The Auburn transfer knows how to fill it up and now she’ll have the opportunity to do so at a higher usage rate.
Benton started out this past season strong but dwindled away as time went on. In fact, Benton never recorded more than four points in a game after February 15. When taking this astounding fact into consideration, it makes her status as the 4th leading scorer on the team more impressive.
The 5-foot-9 guard had a knack for creating her own shot, but often failed to convert her attempts. Benton shot a poor 38% from the field and an even worse 30% from three-point range.
Nevertheless, this is fixable. There was even talk that during Kentucky’s break between the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament that Benton had finally found her groove, reportedly telling her coach that she was back.
Unfortunately, Benton’s newfound confidence didn’t shine through come tournament time. However, if Benton can harness this self-belief and aim it at next season, she could easily become the second-leading scorer for the ‘Cats.
Coach Elzy constantly was outspoken about her team’s depth last season, but fans never truly got to witness it for themselves. With Chasity Patterson moving onto the WNBA and KeKe McKinney entering the transfer portal, Big Blue Nation may finally get their wish.
With Kentucky’s current personnel and a long offseason ahead of them, the possibilities are endless. KeKe McKinney’s exit undoubtedly hurts the team, but it doesn’t decommission them. This summer, Coach Elzy will see who is a true Wildcat when players fight for these new open spots.