Yet another familiar face and a fan favorite will be back on the Kentucky sideline next season: Amber Smith.
The former Cats point guard, who played from 2008-12 and was part of the most successful senior class in school history, will join Matthew Mitchell’s support staff in a player development role, UK announced Wednesday.
The Winter Haven, Fla., native spent the last two years at Louisiana Tech as an assistant coach. She also worked with new UK assistant coach Kyra Elzy as a graduate assistant at Tennessee before that.
“I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to work with Coach Mitchell, Coach Elzy and the rest of the staff,” Smith said in a news release through the school. “They both have had an integral part in my growth as a player and as a person.”
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Smith, who underwent surgery on both knees during her career, was part of the start of the rise of UK women’s basketball under Mitchell, helping the Cats advance to three straight NCAA Tournaments and two Elite Eights. Smith played in 123 games with 109 starts, averaging seven points and 3.4 assists a game.
“To be a part of history as a player and now to be able to return on staff is a blessing that most do not receive,” said Smith, who graduated in 2011 with a degree in Integrated Strategic Communications. “I am looking forward to helping create more history and also giving back to a program that has given so much to me.”
UK has yet to formally announce the hiring of former assistant coach Niya Butts, who was head coach at Arizona previously, but that is expected to come soon.
Mitchell also has not named a third full-time assistant coach.
But Smith could serve as an important go-between for Mitchell and his players.
“Amber is full of energy and has a way of connecting with people that I know is going to impact our office in a very positive way,” he said in a release. “She is one of those people that you always want to be around. ... I am very excited to have her on board and know that our players and staff are going to love having her around.”
He noted that having Smith back means UK now has two former players, including former forward Amani Franklin, back on staff.
“It is always great when former players want to come back and be part of your program after their playing days are over,” he said.