Most of the time, it's nearly impossible to remove the smile from DeNesha Stallworth's face.
Kentucky's senior forward is always positive, always chipper.
But Coach Matthew Mitchell admitted this week, he's had to work harder to bring her up as she battles back from arthroscopic surgery on her left knee.
"She said she was trying to be positive but she really wants to play in this game," Mitchell said this week when asked about her recovery process. "She knows it is an exciting time and I wish she could play."
Stallworth would like to be on the floor when unbeaten, fifth-ranked Kentucky faces No. 2 Duke in front of a packed house at Rupp Arena on Sunday.
But Mitchell said doctors are optimistic that Stallworth, who started experiencing swelling in the knee after the four overtime win over Baylor, will play in plenty of games this season.
"They have taken the bandages off and had a chance to look at it and it looks good," he said. "Still some swelling and we will have to get that out of the knee, but she is working really hard."
Doctors' initial recovery timeframe of 3-4 weeks out still stands, which could have her back as early as UK's Southeastern Conference opener at Alabama on Jan. 2 or the Cats' next game versus Florida on Jan. 5 at Memorial Coliseum.
"She is progressing well and we are looking for an early SEC return for her," Mitchell said.
Epps fine after accident
A scary car accident a week ago left freshman swing player Makayla Epps shaken up, wondering if she'd be able to play the next day versus East Tennessee State.
Despite having a neck strain after the wreck on Bluegrass Parkway in which her car flipped multiple times, Epps was able to come off the UK bench and score eight points in the win.
A week later, Mitchell said the reigning Kentucky Miss Basketball seems to be fine.
"She has looked really good," he said of Epps, who has been moved to the small forward spot with Stallworth still absent from the UK lineup. "I think the toughest part of that is behind us. ... She was cleared and didn't feel great but was able to play and practiced really well yesterday."
Greenwell back in Bluegrass
Duke guard Rebecca Greenwell won't be helping Duke on the court against Kentucky on Sunday, but she'll be there to show the Devils around the Commonwealth.
The former Owensboro Catholic star, who was heavily recruited by UK at the time, is sitting out this season after having reconstructive surgery on her right knee, but she will make the trip with the Blue Devils to Rupp Arena.
Greenwell hit a national record 17 three-pointers in one game, scoring a career-high 51 points. She led the Aces to two All "A" state titles in three years, earning tourney MVP twice.
Duke sophomore Alexis Jones and UK freshman Linnae Harper were teammates on the 2013 USA Women's U19 world championship team that went 9-0 this summer and won the gold medal in Lithuania.
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com.