I’ll go ahead and let you know now, she’s already heard all of the puns/jokes you might think are funny. Treasure Hunt made her Kentucky debut on Wednesday night and immediately put on display why she came to Lexington as a prized five-star basketball recruit.
The first-year guard from Chattanooga, TN has a college-ready game and the confidence to boot that made her an impact player from the 2020-21 opener. During the No. 11 Wildcats season-opening 86-60 win over the Murray State Racers, Hunt finished her first-ever collegiate basketball game with 12 points on 5-10 shooting, including and a 2-5 clip from beyond the arc, in just 13 minutes. She was actually the last of 11 available players to make it off the bench before finally checking in halfway through the second quarter. But the delayed beginning to her start as a Wildcat didn’t accrue many additional nerves.
Hunt did miss her first two looks–the first being a one-on-four fastbreak attempt that went nowhere–but she quickly settled in after that. Even following her second missed shot, which was a solid look from the corner-3, Hunt sprinted after the missed shot and fought for the loose ball.
From that point on, she let the offense come to her and, more importantly, let the ball fly when it did. Check out all five of her made field goals in the video below. Hunt’s jumper is as smooth as butter with a quick-release on the trigger.
Kentucky was notably without National Player of the Year candidate Rhyne Howard and senior forward Tatyana Wyatt on Wednesday, opening up plenty of opportunities for the Big Blue Nation (and interim head coach Kyra Elzy) to learn more about the abundance of first-year players and transfers. Hunt’s 12 points were third-most on the team behind Chasity Patterson’s 30 points and Blair Green’s 13, and she was the only first-year player in double-figure scoring.
Patterson’s performance elevated her to the status of “go-to scorer” alongside Howard, but Kentucky is going to need even more of a scoring punch if they want to make this season something special; from one game, Hunt showed that she possesses the skillset to be the tertiary scorer on this Elzy-led squad. Just from watching the handful of clips above, her catch-and-shoot ability is undeniable and arguably her most tantalizing trait in this small sample size. Hunt (along with junior Blair Green) was working the Murray State defense off the ball, working her way into space where she knew she could use her size and length to get shots off smaller defenders.
All five of Hunt’s made field goals came as a result of her searching for open areas, not necessarily open shots. Once she got to her spot, her teammates knew exactly where to feed her and she did an excellent job of converting. Here is a replay of the third clip from the video above. Follow Hunt closely as she flashes to the nail then quickly cuts out to the elbow when the pass is not there on first-look. Kameron Roach feeds Hunt, who holds the ball up high and searches for an easy pass to help break the MSU zone. No such pass is there, so Hunt dishes the ball back out top and slyly relocates to the opposite corner where she has her hands in position to shoot the ball before she even reaches the corner arc. Even with a taller Racer defense quickly closing in, Hunt receives the pass, easily gets the shot off, and cans it for three UK points.
Standing at 6-foot-1, Hunt can get this shot off whenever she wants to, and it’s obvious she has a pure shooting motion with an impressively quick release. Coach Elzy told us in the preseason to temper our expectations when it came to the first-year players, particularly Hunt, but she looked anything like a rookie on Wednesday afternoon.
“Treasure Hunt, I just love our freshmen,” Elzy said after the win. “I thought Treasure came in, she was solid, she made shots, she played hard on the defensive end, but all of our freshmen, they’re super talented, they’re getting baptized by fire, but they will settle in and they will make this team different.”
If Kentucky wants to continue to increase its ceiling to heights never seen before, Hunt will have to play a significant role. Even if she’s just a catch-and-shoot threat during her first season, that’s a valuable asset. But she showed evidence–a spin layup in the paint leading to a layup–that she can capably attack the rim, which would unlock her as a multi-use scorer on a team that already has two who are really good at that. That’s what I’ll be watching for next, especially as the competition becomes more challenging.
The confidence and talent are clearly there for Treasure Hunt. The faster she develops her skills, the faster Kentucky can compete among the nation’s best.