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WATCH: KeKe McKinney, Rhyne Howard, and Chasity Patterson address media ahead of 2020-21 season

For the first time since their social justice march back in the middle of September, members of the Kentucky Women’s Basketball Team were able to address the media ahead of the start of the 2020-21 season.

It was players only on Monday with the coaches making their appearance this Thursday; senior forward KeKe McKinney, junior guard Rhyne Howard, and senior point guard Chasity Patterson were available to speak, answering questions about the unique offseason, what they’ve improved on during their time off, and what they expect from the team during a highly-anticipated season.

You can check out the entire interview below along with the transcripts from each player. I’ll have plenty more from this press conference later on the site, so stay tuned–there are some interesting tidbits of information snuck in throughout the conversation. But in the meantime, get to know more about three of the team’s veteran leaders.

#3 KeKe McKinney, Sr., F

On if you think of this as your final season or if you’re intrigued to stay for a fifth season …

“I have actually put a lot of thought into it, and that is something that I am considering. I am going to leave it open. I don’t want to make any final decisions right now, but I am definitely interested in coming back for another year.”

 On head coach Matthew Mitchell not being able to be present full time in preseason training …

“Everybody was definitely worried about him and his health, but this team has dealt with adversity before, so it was just something we had to push through. It was weird with him not being (in practice), but we are very comfortable with (Kyra) Elzy, (Nyah) Butts and Amber (Smith), and we now have Dan (DeNesha Stallworth), and it has been going good so far. You know, he is still making progress day-by-day. He is doing a lot better, and he is getting back in the swing of things.”

 On how you see your role changing this season …

“Um, honestly, my role is still the same. I am definitely the person that is going to do the dirty work, that is going to get the extra rebound, that is going to make the extra play. I think this year, I am going to have to score a lot for my team, and that is something that I have been working on. But, rebounding-wise and being a big, I think I am still the same in that aspect. Although we do have some bigs this year, I am still going to have to be a big. I think my role is going to change, but in a sense, it is going to be the same as well.”

 On what differences you notice in practice …

“This year compared to my other years, practices have – I think the tempo – well you know, it’s 2020. Coronavirus has caused a lot of conflict, so we’ve had to ease our way back into things. Now, we are getting back into the swing of things. Tempo is the same. Honestly, it’s not a big change, besides before when we were trying to get back into the swing of things and we had to ramp back up.”

On if there is a concern, with a bigger lineup, forcing turnovers, etc. will be more difficult …

“I don’t think so, only because all of our bigs are able to move very well. I think it will be an advantage for us because we will be more long. I think we will be more active. I don’t think it’s going to be too much different than the years prior, taking into consideration that we all are still getting back into the swing of things. I don’t think a big line is going to slow us down. They’re still a pounding defense. Yeah, we’re still going to be active and do what we can on the defensive side.”

On if Rhyne Howard can be better this year and how …

“Of course! Rhyne is always improving her game; she is never complacent. She was the GOAT last year, but I don’t think she is going to settle. She is definitely working every day in practice and getting better and better. So, I think you’re going to see big things out of Rhyne Howard this year. Honestly, she is an all-around great player. We’re going to need her on both sides of the floor. She definitely helps on defense, but I think that is an area that we all can get better at. But, yeah, Rhyne is known for scoring, but I think her defense is what will help us and take us to the Final Four.”

On how the events of 2020 have affected you as an athlete mentally …

“Physically, I think it has been a challenge for us because in 2020, we couldn’t do as much, we couldn’t get together and we couldn’t get together earlier like we wanted. I think that affected us, so like I said before, we’re still trying to get back in the swing of things, meaning like we’re going to try and get back into shape because, you know, it’s a process, but being a black athlete, and with everything that is going on in our world today, I want to play more. I want to actually play and do better this year because I want people to hear and see that us as black student-athletes, we’re able to get things done, we’re able to be on a big platform, and I want to make a change this year.”

On who has already made a major difference on the team so far …

“I want to say everybody because everybody is doing so well. But, the two people that are standing out so far for me is Dre (Dre’una Edwards) and Nyah (Leveretter). You know, Dre is coming back from an injury and she had to make a lot of changes over the past year, and she is doing very well. She looks great, she is running great and she is doing great. And, Nyah, she just never runs out of gas. Nyah is really impressing me as a freshman, and I think we’re going to have big things coming from her. But then again, everybody is doing so well right now, and I am loving what I am seeing.”

On how the pandemic and the training regimen has had an effect on the team …

“Like I said before, it is definitely difficult because we can’t do as much as we want to do. Well, we couldn’t at first, and I think that affected us. But now, we are getting back into the swing of things, and honestly, I think everything is going good. We’re getting back in shape. We are in our three hours now (practice), so we are able to do more, we are getting that game shape in, and yeah. I thought it affected us at first, but now I feel like we’re back on it.”

On if there is a team motto or theme this year …

“We haven’t really talked about it, but I think we’re going with, you know, what everybody else is with the change, how black lives do matter and unity across the border.”

On how we will see your goal play out of being an advanced scorer …

“I am going to do what I can, meaning that is something that I am working on. Last year, I was working on my consistency at the 3, and I am also still working on that, but I am also going to try to put it on the floor more, get to the cup more, and also crashing the boards more, and finishing through contact, through the bigs. So, that has been my goal. That’s what I have been working on and focusing on and hopefully it will show throughout the game, but it is still day-by-day.”

#10 Rhyne Howard, Jr., G

On her mental preparation after all the adjustments 2020 has brought …
“Mentally, I am just focusing on just for one, being back on the court with my teammates. With our season getting cut short last year, ever since I have been ready to compete for and putting a jersey on for the University of Kentucky. Mentally, I am just working on going hard at all times and being the leader the newcomer and returners can look up to because I know what the coaches are expecting and what we need to do to make things happen and make a deep run.”

On Kentucky being bigger in the post than past seasons and how that will help them be more aggressive defensively …
“I think it will actually help us because we are still going to be up and pressuring the ball and still be pressing for the full 40 minutes. It will just be key if we do get tired because we are going to get beat sometimes, we are human, and we will have more rim protectors back there so the opponents won’t be able to score as easily as maybe they did the past. They won’t be able to get open looks with our bigs in the post and the back line will be able to slow things down for us so the guards can recover.”

On what she does for an encore season …
“I don’t really feel any pressure because I don’t feel a reason to be pressured. I have my teammates behind me and we have a great team this year. I got Chasity on the point and like KeKe said, I got her and Olivia and the newcomers, we got all them. We are going to have a great team and they are there to lift the pressure off of me and if I do get pressured I know I can go to them or go to my coaches and they will make it easier for me you can say. They can make sure I am staying focused on making the right plays for my team.”

On how she can get better …
“Oh, for sure. I definitely think I can get better at every aspect of my game. Nobody is perfect, especially not me. My coaches are pinpointing on the exact things that I need to work on and they talk to me after every practice and let me know what I am doing good and what I need to continue to do to be a great player.”

On her not being named a WBCA All-American last season …
”It is definitely a huge motivator for me because I just felt like that was so disrespectful towards me and towards my game. My teammates know how hard I was working and my coaches know how hard we were all working to make sure we did get as far as we would like as a team and just to make sure I never took any days off or anything like that. For them to leave me off, I was hurt a little bit but then I was like, ‘alright, now y’all have really made me mad because I was just taking it easy but now I can’t and I have to come at y’all.’”

On how COVID has helped them realize you cannot take a day for granted …
“We really haven’t had any verbal discussions on how hard we need to go or how we all need to focus in practice and things like that, but we all know what risks everyone is taking for us to get back into the season and we know it could all happen again and the cases could spike or something like positive tests coming about. We know that the coaches and university are doing all it takes to keep us safe and we are making sure we abide by the rules that they set for us.”

On her finger and how it feels …
“All good. Well, it is still crooked but I have more range with this hand.”

On Coach Mitchell insinuating that things come easy for her and what is difficult for her …
“I will not confirm nor deny any of those statements, but I think I could definitely work on focusing more on my pace. I do think at times it shows that I get a little tired and I let fatigue set in and then just knowing for me when to take a shot or when to hit my post player or hit Chas coming off the ball screen or something like that. Mainly just focusing in on pace this year and being able to play a full 40 minutes.”

On what they were focused on in the gym during the break in play …
“When I was at home, it got in the gym every day. Most of the time it would be three hours or so with my trainer and also with my new teammates, Treasure and Jazmine. We knew that the summer was going to be a big time to get ahead of the competition or maintain and staying in shape because a lot of people didn’t have access to gym or couldn’t get out and put the work in that they normally do. We knew we had to capitalizing on our resources and what we could. I worked on pretty much everything. I worked on conditioning in our drills and everything we would do we would make sure had some running in there. We worked on shooting and coming off ball screens and catch and shoot. We did runners, floaters and different kind of finishes and all types of stuff.”

On the team still using their defense to spark the offense still …
“Following up with Chas, I definitely think that we are still going to make us play up and pressure the ball and get the turnovers we are looking for. I don’t really think it is going to matter the posts we have or whoever is playing back, they are still going to make the guards play a full 94 feet pickup the ball and pressure the ball and get turnovers and the easy buckets still.”

On what it would mean to get Kentucky to a Final Four …
“It would mean a lot even an SEC Championship would mean a lot. University of Kentucky women’s basketball hasn’t won that since 2012 so to bring that and a national championship in the same year would be phenomenal. It would prove how much we worked for it and took the time to put the work in and never give up and just do what everyone says we couldn’t do.”

On playing with Treasure Hunt and Jazmine Massengill …
“They are definitely hard workers and are going to be threats on offense and defense and hate to lose like everybody else on the team. Then with us being back together, we know how we play and where we want to get the ball and how we want to get the ball. We know what the others are thinking before they even do it. BBN can expect buckets on offense and hardworkers from the both of them and I am looking forward to playing with them.”

#15 Chasity Patterson, Sr., G

On what makes her a different guard than Sabrina and Jaida last year …
“Thank you for having me, everyone. For me, what I am going to bring to the table is being the best version of myself on both ends of the ball. Being able to score because we are going to need somebody that can help out Rhyne and we need more scoring overall. Then just being that defensive dog and being a dog on defense is something that I have been focusing on and I am ready to go on each end of the court and both sides of the ball. That is something that is going to separate me this year is going to be my defense.”

On her speed …
“Definitely, I can say that the speed part of it was natural but being able to time it and how I play defense is something you can work on in practice, like with my defensive fundamentals. That is something that is going to separate me again.”

On Kentucky being bigger in the post than past seasons and how that will help them be more aggressive defensively …
“I would agree with Rhyne, totally. Having those bigs in the backcourt with us is going to be key for us because guard play is great in the SEC and having that help is huge. They have done a great job in practice helping and doing their part. I think it will all come together this year. Like KeKe said, Nyah, Olivia and Dre have all been doing a great job in the post too and helping out the guards and vice versa with us all helping each other out.”

On Rhyne not making the WBCA All-American team …
“it was unfortunate for that to happen and we all as a team wanted to go deep and make a deep run, but especially talking about Rhyne, we knew she worked so hard every day and knew that was something you wanted to accomplish for that year and just to have everything stop for COVID was unfortunate. For this team, we are all motivated coming into this year and we didn’t have a postseason really last year so we are excited to have all these newcomers and all these pieces coming together and practice is so competitive. It is very exciting and I think everybody is motivated to come back and make their impact on the team. So I think we are all pretty motivated for sure.”

On how COVID has helped them realize you cannot take a day for granted …
“Definitely, every since we stopped playing in March or whatever it was we have been like, ‘man we took a lot of granted and didn’t realize it.’ We don’t have 24 hour access to the gym and stuff like that, so it made us want to go harder because at any point you can lose what you love and that has been big for me as a player because it makes me want to leave it all on the floor every time I come to practice.”

On what they were focused on in the gym during the break in play …
“Like Rhyne said, it was big for us – each of us – to capitalize on our resources back home and I was fortunate to get into the gym with my trainer and like Rhyne said just stay in shape, that was big for us. Strength and conditioning for me, every week I would to my strength and conditioning coach and we would do weights and conditioning and then later in the day I would go to the gym and work out for three hours and go through drills and shooting drills and just ball handling and stuff like that. I pretty much did that most of the time I was home and able to stay in shape and that was something that we were able to capitalize on.”

On the team still using their defense to spark the offense still …
“Our game plan is still the same. We are uptempo and push the ball and one thing has been great with our posts is that they are getting up the floor quick too, so that is going to be great for us. We need somebody to rim run for 40 minutes. That is something that we have been doing a great job in and we are going to be the same as last year but just better when you have posts that can get up the floor really quick.”

On what it would mean to get Kentucky to a Final Four …
“It would mean a lot being able to first get a SEC Championship, would be great. This is a tough conference and everybody is a tough opponent so making that happen and then also a national championship would mean everything. For me, coming into this program I wanted to be able to help lead them to a national championship and that would be special for me to come down here and be a part of that.”

On her 3-point shooting and if she has the green light …
“Yes, for sure. Coaches are always telling everybody and they get mad when we don’t shoot, so they are always encouraging all of us to shoot the ball. For me, that has always been a strength or me and I definitely have a great light to shoot the ball this year. I am very confident in my shooting. Last year, at Big Blue Madness I did win the 3-point contest – no, I am just kidding. I am very confident in it and think it would be very competitive between me and you. We can both shoot NBA range.”

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Recruiting reporter for KSR. Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR