Kentucky womens basketball prepares for a new season with new faces


Kentucky head coach Kyra Elzy coaches from the sideline during the UK vs. Ole Miss womens basketball game on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 63-54. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Ali Cetinok, Asst. Sports Editor

Last season was truly a mixed bag of emotions for Kentucky womens basketball.

The team finished with a 19-12 record and a seventh place finish in the SEC regular season before going on and winning the SEC Tournament for the first time in 40 years … just to be knocked out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the hands of Princeton.

Following the loss, team star Rhyne Howard left for the WNBA, becoming the first Wildcat to go No. 1 overall in the womens draft, while key contributors such as Dre’una Edwards, Jazmine Massengill, Olivia Owens and Treasure Hunt all left for the transfer portal.

As a result, Kentucky enters the new season with a lot of fresh faces with only five out of 15 total players being returners to the program.

Those five familiar faces are Robyn Benton, Emma King, Blair Green, Nyah Leveretter and Jada Walker.

Desperate to not be flooded with inexperienced youth, Kentucky added much needed transfers to the squad in the offseason including the likes of Eniya Russell from South Carolina, Ajae Petty from LSU, Lexington native Maddie Scherr from Oregon and Adebola Adeyeye from Buffalo.

The Wildcats still added a fair share of youth as well including Virgie, Kentucky, native Cassidy Rowe, who is expected to make an impact for the Cats this season as well.

The Wildcats open their season at home inside Memorial Coliseum on Monday, Nov. 7, against Radford.

The Highlanders finished last season with a 7-23 record, including a 83-31 loss to West Virginia, which Kentucky went on to beat by 23 points.

Following the season opener, the Cats host Morehead State, Coastal Carolina and Bellarmine before traveling to the Bahamas from Nov. 21-23, where they will take on more formidable foes such as Virginia Tech and Dayton for the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship.

The Cats then return to Lexington to play UNC Greensboro on Dec. 4 before playing their first true road game at Minnesota just three days later.

With a mostly easy slate heading toward Christmas, the Wildcats host their biggest test early on in the season as they host in-state rival and pre-season No. 7 Louisville inside Rupp Arena on Dec. 11.

The Cats then finish their non-conference schedule at home against Murray State, Florida Gulf Coast and Ohio.

With mostly new faces on the squad and the ever present grind of the SEC, which has three teams ranked in the preseason top 25, including No. 1 South Carolina fresh off a national championship, and five more receiving votes, Kentucky faces no easy task in hoping to defend its SEC title.

A new era for Kentucky womens basketball dawns upon Lexington as Kyra Elzy’s Wildcats look to prove they can play with the best once again while also reinventing themselves as a team.