After weeks of bad news about players bolting and coaches departing Kentucky’s program, Coach Matthew Mitchell got his first bit of good news: the commitment of a three-star point guard.
Jaida Roper, a 2016 Louisiana Tech signee, announced her intention to play for Kentucky this coming season on Twitter on Thursday night after her high school graduation.
The 5-foot-8 point guard from Memphis’ Houston High School was ranked as the 30th-best point guard in the class by ESPN.
The 2016-17 Kentucky roster, which has been decimated by defections, now stands at seven players with the addition of Roper, including leading scorer Makayla Epps (17.1 points, 4.8 rebounds) and leading rebounder Evelyn Akhator (11.5 points, 9.3 rebounds).
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The Cats also return forward Alyssa Rice as well as guards Maci Morris and Taylor Murray. Forward Makenzie Cann, a transfer from Cincinnati, becomes eligible this coming season.
Various reports have said that 6-foot swing player Chanin Scott has been let out of her national letter of intent to Kentucky, but the school declined to confirm those reports this week.
Roper signed her own letter of intent to play for Louisiana Tech, which was hit by a scandal last month involving an inappropriate relationship between head coach Tyler Summitt and a player. Summit, the son of legendary coach Pat Summitt, subsequently resigned.
Initially, Roper’s request to be let out of her letter was denied by the administration, asking her to wait until a new coach was in place, which had her family frustrated.
But Roper has found a new place to land at Kentucky, which recently hired former Cats point guard Amber Smith, a former Louisiana Tech assistant coach, to the support staff.
Roper, who scored 1,500 career points for Houston High School, averaged 13.2 points, 5.2 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 steals last season for the Mustangs, who finished the season 27-3.
As a junior, she averaged 17.8 points, 5.7 assists, 3.9 steals and 3.7 rebounds while shooting 40 percent from three-point range. She helped lead the Mustangs to the district and region titles in 2014.
In all, she had 97 career wins at Houston High School, her coach, Chad Becker, said.
Roper played AAU basketball for the Tennessee Flight Silver, coached by Tom Insell, brother of current Ole Miss coach Matt Insell, a former UK assistant coach.
Initially, Roper picked Louisiana Tech over Wisconsin, Wake Forest, Cincinnati and Middle Tennessee.
Kentucky’s 2016-17 roster
F Evelyn Akhator 6-3 senior
F Makenzie Cann 6-0 junior
G Makayla Epps 5-10 senior
G Maci Morris 6-0 sophomore
G Taylor Murray 5-6 sophomore
C Alyssa Rice 6-3 junior
G Jaida Roper 5-8 freshman
F Chanin Scott 6-0 freshman-x
x-Reportedly reopening her recruitment.