Media day for UK’s women’s basketball team took place earlier today at the Joe Craft Center. We’ll have plenty more as we get you ready for the season, but for now here’s a quick recap.
A lot of questions at the opening press conference with Coach Mitchell revolved around the transition from last year to this season. After losing several players and two commits, the program was in full-on crisis mode.
“There were a lot of tough times and a lot of tough days,” said Coach Mitchell. “Those returning six were rock solid through all of that. I love those six kids, and I love this whole team.”
Out of those returning six, three are expected to be starters: Makayla Epps, Evelyn Akhator and Maci Morris. Epps is the team’s key veteran, as she averaged 17.1 points and 4.8 rebounds last season and was recently named to the Preseason Media All-SEC team.
When asked how well the team is moving on from the struggles of last season, Epps’ response was simple: “We’re pretty past it.” She went on to describe the team’s current attitude, and mentioned how like-minded this team is.
“The people who are with us now have been working really hard. All 12 of us are on the same page. We want to work hard for ourselves, for Coach Mitchell and the rest of the coaching staff, and then of course for the fans who stuck with us.”
Besides adding six new players to the roster, the team also gained three new assistant coaches: Kyra Elzy, Niya Butts and Lin Dunn.
“We’ve got to calm her down,” joked Mitchell about Dunn. “She’s fired up and ready for the season.”
The team’s motto for the season, “ONE”, was another main element in today’s press conference. But what does it mean?
“We have to do it together. We have a talented group, but we probably don’t have the most talented group in the country,” said Mitchell. It really has to be one unit marching forward every day.
Epps felt the same way.
“We’re just one family, one team. Everything we do and everything we’re about happens right here on this court.”
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) October 19, 2016
As one of just three seniors on the team (Evelyn Akhator and Jessica Hardin are the others), Epps understands the importance of this season.
“It’s my last year playing in the blue and white, and it makes me emotional. Every game I’m going to give all I have, for myself and my team. I’d like to get drafted at the end of this season, but at the end of the day, it’s about the team and not about me.
Currently, the Cats are ranked third in the SEC. While the women are determined to change the outside perception of the program after their tumultuous spring and summer, Mitchell isn’t concerned.
“I promise I’m not sitting around thinking about what others are saying about us. I’ve never found a lot of value in that. We know who we are, and we know the character of these kids. No one is calm — we’re fired up.”
So fired up, in fact, Mitchell has barely had time to process Kelly Clarkson’s recent tweet.
I am officially in love with this coach and all these people involved with this video ðŸ˜‚ðŸ˜‚ðŸ˜‚ so great!! https://t.co/fl7kk3QSPY
— Kelly Clarkson (@kelly_clarkson) October 15, 2016
“That was a big moment for me. She’s the American Idol. I wish I had more time to bask in that glow, but we’ve been practicing.”
Hopefully all that practice pays off. The cats’ first game will be at Memorial Coliseum on November 3 vs. Union at 7:00.