Like some sort of portrait artist in a Kentucky T-shirt, Matthew Mitchell tries to paint the picture for Makayla Epps of what he thinks she can be.
"We've had meetings where he's said I could possibly be the best player he's ever coached," Epps said with a quick smile. "I want to be that."
Mitchell wants her to be that, too. He needs her to be that now that she's taken over the point guard role full time.
Which is why the Kentucky coach was rigid and blunt when asked about Epps' big-time play-making at the end of Kentucky's loss to No. 6 Tennessee on Thursday when she scored 20 of her 23 points in the second half, including the Cats' final 10.
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"I wish she'd started getting a little more aggressive earlier in the game," he said matter-of-factly.
"She really has to view herself as the player she can be," Mitchell continued. "I just thought so many times tonight she could've made the difference in the game and she was indecisive."
With maturity and reps and a little boost of confidence coupled with some smacks back to reality, Mitchell said he believes the sophomore guard could be one of the best ever to play at Kentucky.
Now he just has to get her to believe that.
"I believe this: I think in 30 days' time you'll see one of the best point guards in the SEC — if not the best — and I think that's what our goal and our mindset needs to be," he said recently.
Last season, he saw a freshman who wasn't in shape enough to play more than 15 minutes a game effectively. Now, after a season of convincing her of what she could be, Epps is able to go 30-plus minutes a game no problem.
Going into the Tennessee game, Mitchell pointed out to Epps that she had made just 18.2 percent of her three-point shots in Southeastern Conference play.
In film review sessions with her coach, he noted that she was ball faking or scooting in to get off the three-point line.
"Even when I was open, I was ball faking nobody," she smiled.
So Mitchell challenged the 5-foot-10 sophomore from Marion County to hit the gym and put up shots, to grow her game.
"I got in the gym Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning and shot between 700 and 750 between the two days, before practice and before class," Epps said. "Against Tennessee, I go 3-for-3. It was a huge difference. I had a ton of confidence."
Her back-to-back three-pointers late in the game kept Kentucky in it and gave the No. 10 Cats (16-5, 5-3) a chance to win it.
But an Epps shot in the lane was one of four by UK in the final seconds that didn't go.
Despite all that she did in that game, she could've done more, Mitchell argued.
"The last shot there, she floated and was like 'Oh, I hope it goes in,'" he said. "Those little nuances of the game are what she needs to improve on."
With his brush, Mitchell the portrait artist paints an Epps who always makes the right decision with the ball.
"Even though I've been a point guard all my life, I haven't played point guard at such a high level," said Epps, who took over full-time four games ago when junior Janee Thompson broke her leg. "It's been a hard transition."
Her coach pointed to a play near the end where the Lady Vols switched on defense and left UK forward Alexis Jennings under the basket with a much smaller player on her.
"It was like the Red Sea parted and there was Jennings down there; we didn't get it to her," Mitchell said. "It's an experience that we need to learn from. And there's only one way to do that: play it, screw up, look at it on film, try to do better the next time."
Epps tries to spend 30 minutes a day in Mitchell's office moving pieces around on the scout board to figure out not only where she should be, but to be able to anticipate where her teammates will be.
"It's just reps," Epps said. "The more reps I get, the better I'm going to be at it."
And the better she gets, the better Kentucky will get.
Since taking over the point guard job, Epps has averaged a team-high 19.2 points a game to go with 5.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists.
Epps, who also is tops in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio in SEC games, is starting to visualize the portrait her coach is painting.
"If he believes I can be SEC top caliber in 30 days, then I believe in myself," she said. "If he believes I can get to the basket every time, then I'm starting to believe I can get to the basket every time."
Epps can be a star, her coach said.
He reeled it off in paint-by-number fashion.
"She is very talented; she's got a high basketball IQ; she can affect the game in every phase; she can be a good defender," he said barely taking a breath. "She can rebound the basketball, great ball-handler, great scorer mid-range, great three-point shooter. ...
"We're working real hard with her on improving and I think it's necessary for this particular team for her to embrace that role and try to become a big-time player right now for us."