The hits keep on coming for Kentucky women’s basketball with the news that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings has been granted her release.
When asked, a UK spokesman confirmed that Jennings met with Coach Matthew Mitchell recently and that she is parting ways with the program, becoming the seventh player to exit since last fall.
The UK coach, who met for more than 45 minutes with the media a week ago to discuss the previous departures, which included four transfers, a graduate transfer and a dismissal, released this statement to the Herald-Leader:
“I talked last week about needing to give our players a clear path forward in our program and it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky,” Mitchell said through a spokesman. “She alerted me today that she felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity. I appreciate her hard work the past two years and hope she finds success.”
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The 6-foot-2 forward from Alabama was the Cats’ fourth-leading scorer last season, playing in all 33 games, starting in 18 of them. She averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds a game.
Jennings scored in double figures in 18 games last season and in 30 games during her Wildcat career.
The player turnover is on top of the departures of all three assistant coaches under Mitchell, one whose contract was not renewed and two others who opted to leave.
UK has since hired Kyra Elzy, a former Cats assistant who parted ways with Tennessee in April, and expects to announce another assistant coach as soon as Thursday.
“The turnover we have had has not been easy on our players and it’s critical that we give them some stability,” Mitchell said last week. “Part of that is getting a quality staff in place and I am confident we are going to do that in the coming days. Our focus continues to be on the players in the locker room and the recruits that we are confident would make great Wildcats.”
The departure of Jennings means UK is left with five players from last year’s 25-8 team. The Cats add Cincinnati transfer Makenzie Cann and 2016 signee Chanin Scott, a swing player.
Mitchell hinted last week that there could be other players on the way out, saying that the upheaval had been difficult on the players and that he skipped a major recruiting event to stay in Lexington.
“I’m not doing a lot of recruiting outside the building right now,” he said. “I’m recruiting inside the building, trying to settle them down.”
Through a spokesman, Mitch Barnhart declined any further comment on the departures, referring to previous statements made last week about supporting Mitchell and believing he can turn the program around.
A closer look at the players and assistant coaches who have left the Kentucky program since October:
Oct. 15, 2015 — Mitchell announces that Oregon transfer Chrishae Rowe is dismissed for “failure to uphold standards of the program.”
Oct. 26 — Junior guard Linnae Harper is granted her release from UK. She eventually signs with Ohio State.
Nov. 3 — Freshman guard Morgan Rich, who was never cleared to practice with the team, requests transfer. She eventually signs with Oklahoma.
Nov. 30 — Five games into the season, junior forward Kyvin Goodin-Rogers leaves program, eventually signs to play at Western Kentucky.
March 29, 2016 — Junior college forward Ivana Jakubcova granted her release as a graduate transfer. She has not announced where she plans to play next.
April 14 — Kentucky confirms that it is not planning to renew the contract of second-year assistant coach Adeniyi Amadou.
April 25 — Freshman forward Batouly Camara is granted her release by the school. She has not signed anywhere yet.
April 25 — UK announces that second-year assistant coach Tamika Williams-Jeter has opted not to return.
April 26 — Kentucky confirms it has released McDonald’s All-American Lindsey Corsaro from her national letter of intent. The night before, the mother of 2017 verbal commitment Madison Treece told ESPN her daughter is reopening her recruitment as well.
April 27 — UK announces that assistant coach Camryn Whitaker is pursuing other coaching opportunities and will not be returning to UK after one season on staff.
May 4 — Sophomore forward Alexis Jennings requests transfer from UK, has not announced a new destination.