Matthew Mitchell discovering team identity early


Kentucky Wildcat head coach Matthew Mitchell coaches up guard Maci Morris during the fourth quarter of the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Thursday, February 23, 2017 at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, KY. Photo by Addison Coffey | Staff.

Brianna Dooley

On Tuesday afternoon during the UK women’s basketball media day, head coach Matthew Mitchell spoke about the identity of the 2017-18 team. 

This year, the Cats will have six new faces: four freshmen, a community college transfer and one junior who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. With the team losing two of their key players, Makayla Epps and Evelyn Akhator, the players will have some big shoes to fill. 

Last season, Epps was the leading scorer of the team and Akhator was the leading rebounder. Both women are now playing in the WNBA.

During the press conference, coach Mitchell said that he believes “the identity will be hustle, quickness, speed, athleticism, try to force the other team to be uncomfortable and make some mistakes.” 

“What we have really tried to talk about so far and give them confidence in is that speed and quickness and athleticism gives them the ability to be a really tough team to go against,” Mitchell said

Some key returners for the team include guards Taylor Murray and Maci Morris, both juniors. They are two of the players who will have to take over the leadership role on the team since Epps and Akhator are both gone. 

Murray, who 5-6, was the team’s second highest leader in rebounding last season, and she was third on the team’s leading scoring list. She is speedy and is almost unstoppable once she gets her gears rolling.

Taylor said that she doesn’t really see extra responsibility on herself moving into this season, but she sees herself moving on from what she did last year and improving this year for her team.

Speaking on the leadership role and Murray and Morris will both have to pick up, Murray said that they are “here for the challenge.” She also said that since her and Morris will be going on their third season playing in the SEC, they “know what expectations they need to bring to get the team to where they need to go.”

Morris, who is 6-0, was fourth on the team’s leading scorers list. Morris is a straight shooter who has the skills to lead the team this season.

Because the team has so many newcomers this season, Morris says that the returners try to “motivate” them every day and tell them to get used to Mitchell’s wish of having a “fast paced” team.

Morris spoke highly of the new freshmen and said that they all “contribute so many different things to this team.”

Big Blue Nation will be introduced to the six newcomers, and reintroduce the returning players on Oct. 13 during Big Blue Madness.