Senior forward Samantha Drake will not play in her final season for the University of Kentucky women's basketball team, the school announced Thursday.
Drake, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus four games into last season, could've taken a medical redshirt, but has opted to not play and instead focus on school.
"Although I won't be playing anymore, I'll still be the biggest cheerleader for the team," Drake said in a news release, thanking coaches, teammates and administrators. "I am going to turn my focus on academics and walking across that stage in May to receive my degree."
The former Nelson County star played in 88 games for Kentucky with 23 starts. She had three career double-doubles.
"Samantha contributed to so many victories during her career and we are grateful for her efforts," Coach Matthew Mitchell said in the release. "We will continue supporting her any way we can as she works toward graduation."
Drake had her high school jersey retired at Nelson County after setting scoring records for boys or girls with 3,068 points and 1,381 rebounds.
She would've been a veteran at the post position, where UK will be relatively young this season after the graduations of forwards Samarie Walker and DeNesha Stallworth.
The Cats return Azia Bishop, who played in 35 games last season and averaged 5.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a game. Jelleah Sidney also is back with her 3.1 points and 3.1 rebounds a game last season.
New assistant coach Adeniyi Amadou will be breaking in a collection of newcomers in the frontcourt.
Kyvin Goodin-Rogers, a 6-foot-1 forward from Marion County, sat out last season while dealing with a blood clot in her lung. She has been cleared to play. Three other newcomers include freshmen Alexis Jennings (6-2 freshman from Madison, Ala.) and Alyssa Rice (6-3 freshman from Reynoldsburg, Ohio) as well as 6-foot-6 junior-college transfer Ivana Jakubcova.
Drake was suspended from the team during its NCAA Tournament run in 2013, but worked her way back into Mitchell's good graces in the offseason. Before last season, the Cats coach said he thought highly of Drake.
"I love her a lot," Mitchell said then. "I want her to be successful. ... She had to search her soul to see if she wanted to play and once she made that decision, she had to do some things to get back on the team."
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com.