Key takeaways from UK Hoops media day



By Anthony Crawford

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Janee Thompson is nearing 100 percent, ready to step into leadership role

Thompson suffered an injury in January that ended her season, but after rehabbing from a broken leg she now carries the expectations of Mitchell and the rest of the staff to be a leader. Thompson is able to practice now with some limitations, and is expected to be at full strength for her senior year with the season approaching.

“She’s been a very productive player at Kentucky. She knows the program. She knows what we’re trying to accomplish,” Mitchell said. “But we’re simultaneously working with a senior leader on the team, so she’s got to pay attention to her attitude every single day. She can’t ride the roller coaster. She doesn’t have that luxury.”

Depth will define the team, especially on defense

UK will be a young team after losing three seniors last year, but the three incoming freshman —  Batouly Camara, Maci Morris and Taylor Murray — will add key depth for the Cats. Mitchell hopes having multiple fresh players on bench will lead to a more tenacious defense. He also sees this luxury as a chance to see players push themselves to get better and distinguish their role for the team.

“This team has everything they need, every physical attribute that’s necessary to play disruptive defense, and so now it’s a matter of each individual understanding her importance there and her responsibility there and accepting that,” Mitchell said.

Evelyn Akhator brings versatility and character

The junior transfer comes into the season athletic and raw. Mitchell said Akhator’s high character has made it easier for her to be coached. Mitchell also uses her athleticism on the defense by switching her to ball screen while defending pick and rolls.

“When one of your most talented people is also one of your best people and highest-character person and hardest worker and very consistent from a work ethic standpoint, it makes a difference on your team,” Mitchell said.

Field goal percentage will be a major focus for this team

When Mitchell arrived at UK in 2007, he brought his ability to turn teams into defensive menaces. So far that has taken Mitchell and the Cats as far as the Elite Eight. Mitchell noted that one of the things that stands between UK becoming a program like Notre Dame and Connecticut and reaching the school’s first Final Four is field goal percentage.

“I need to make sure that people know what is a good shot for each individual person and then make sure that they get enough repetitions, enough reps in practice or that their schedule is organized where they can do that on their own,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell will many options at the point guard spot

Between Makayla Epps, Thompson, and Taylor Murray, UK has three starting caliber point guards on its roster. Mitchell said it will be defense that decides the starting and end of the game lineups and also said all three players are capable of playing with each other, especially with the up and down style of play that Mitchell wants.

“We run an offense in transition that everybody needs to be able to handle the ball, and everyone needs to be able to catch an outlet pass and know what to do,” Mitchell said.