Mitchell excited, not nervous for debut

Only 189 days have passed since Matthew Mitchell became head coach of the UK women’s basketball team, yet when Mitchell steps onto the Memorial Coliseum floor tonight to lead the Cats, he said he will not be feeling any butterflies.

“I never was real nervous even in my playing days,” Mitchell said at a news conference yesterday. “I feel good about the way we’ve gone through practice. And I don’t worry about things out of my control.”

UK Hoops will tip-off their 2007-08 season with an exhibition game against Kentucky Wesleyan tonight at 7.

And while Mitchell is not nervous about his first game as head coach at UK, he said he is eager for the opportunity to finally showcase his team.

“I’ll be excited every time I take the court at Kentucky,” Mitchell said. “It’ll always be exciting for me.”

Though anticipation surrounding the season’s first exhibition game is high, the Cats will be without the services of their two biggest players, 6-foot-6 senior center Sarah Elliott and 6-foot-5 freshman center Catina Bett. Elliott is sidelined with a hip flexor she injured five days ago in practice, and Bett is suspended from the game for academic reasons, Mitchell said.

With the absence of UK’s two tallest players, Mitchell said the team will look to play with a quicker pace.

UK will start returning players junior point guard Carly Ormerod, senior guard Samantha Mahoney, senior guard Chante Bowman and junior forward Jenn’e Jackson alongside freshman forward Victoria Dunlap, who will replace the injured Elliott.

“The lineup we have can be up-tempo,” Mitchell said. “And they have the intensity in guarding the half-court.”

The players might be more excited than Mitchell to get on the floor. Ormerod said they will be glad to get the chance to finally play against someone other than themselves.

“I think all of us are excited,” Ormerod said. “It’s been a real good preseason, but we are sick of beating each other up.”

The intensity of the Cats’ preseason practices has prepared the team for the start of the season, Dunlap said.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “We’ve worked hard. But the games are going to be just as hard.”

While tonight’s game is just a tune-up for the regular season, which begins Nov. 10 at home against South Carolina Upstate, Mitchell said it is important for his team to perform well, especially considering the strength of UK’s schedule this year.

“Before Christmas we will be tested,” Mitchell said, “which is good because after Christmas we will be tested again many times.”