Point guard becomes major area of concern

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 8, 2010 

Victoria Dunlap summed up Kentucky's point guard situation best:

"It's definitely a work in progress," the senior forward said.

If UK's exhibition game Sunday is any indication, it might be for some time.

With senior point guard Amber Smith sidelined indefinitely while rehabbing a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the Cats have moved to a point guard by committee.

"That remains my biggest concern, that position," Coach Matthew Mitchell confirmed.

Crystal Riley, last year's backup to Smith, earned the starting spot, but got in early foul trouble.

Jennifer O'Neill, the first McDonald's All-American in UK history, was supposed to be the next big thing, but she's still learning.

O'Neill was the last one off the bench for Kentucky Sunday. She played only eight minutes and turned the ball over four times. All five of her points came in the game's final minute.

"Jen has some work to do," Mitchell said. "I'm very optimistic it will come together for her."

Much of it is mental, he said.

"She has to stop being so hard on herself in practice," Mitchell said. "She needs to progress some defensively, and offensively she needs to run the team a little bit better."

Another freshman, Maegan Conwright, may turn out to be a part of the point guard solution for the Cats along with sophomore A'dia Mathies, who ran some point.

When Conwright saw UK struggling with that position in practice a couple of weeks ago, she told one of the coaches she'd like to try to run the point.

"That was interesting for a player that young to just speak up," Mitchell said.

Conwright had a good all-around game, scoring six points, grabbing three rebounds and also pitching in with three assists and three steals with just one turnover.

"She looked the best today," Mitchell said. "Her instincts are fantastic."

Mostly Mitchell liked Conwright's ability to get things going on the defensive end, something key Smith provided at that spot.

'A good situation'

With an influx of versatile talent, few starting spots seem safe this season.

On Sunday, Victoria Dunlap, A'dia Mathies and Crystal Riley started as well as newcomers Samantha Drake and Bernisha Pinkett.

Mitchell said Pinkett only got the start because of her work in practice, but he's sure she'll have some challengers.

"We have a lot of talent over there on the bench," he said, "and it's going to be real, real competitive."

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