CHICAGO — Take a look at Taylor Murray's stat line for the season, and it's not difficult to figure out what University of Kentucky women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell likes most about his next top recruit.
"Mainly, he likes that I can play defense," Murray said. "And I always make sure that defense comes first before anything else. You have to get stops in order to score."
She can do plenty of that, too.
Murray — UK's lone McDonald's All-American this season — averaged 29.1 points during her senior season at Annapolis Area Christian School in Maryland.
That's obviously a nice stat, but it's not the one that pops off the page.
Murray also averaged a whopping 7.0 steals.
"She has some of the quickest hands and athletic instincts that I've seen," said Severn School Coach Chuck Miller when Murray was named the state's player of the year a couple of weeks ago.
The 5-foot-6 point guard is the shortest competitor at this year's McDonald's All-American Game. She's also the highest-rated prospect in UK's solid 2015 recruiting class, which includes fellow top-100 players Batouly Camara, Maci Morris and Morgan Rich.
Murray got to know some of her fellow recruits and future teammates at last fall's Big Blue Madness. She was supposed to be accompanied on that trip by her mother, who couldn't get off work for the event.
Instead, Murray decided to fly to Lexington on her own.
"I thought, 'Well, eventually I'm going to be going to college by myself, so I might as well get the experience and just see how everything goes,'" she said. "And it was amazing. Just to be a part of it, to think that I was watching it now but I would be in this exact place in a little while. It was exciting."
Also exciting is the prospect of playing the next two years alongside Makayla Epps and Linnae Harper — two other playmakers who have represented the Cats in the McDonald's All-American Game.
"I feel like we can be the Big Three," Murray said.
She watched the Wildcats as much as she could this season and was disappointed by the team's upset loss to Dayton in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Undeterred, the littlest McDonald's All-American expects big things for the UK program.
"In the next couple of years, I think we'll be back in the Sweet 16, Elite Eight and then Final Four," Murray said. "We just have to keep pushing, working hard, sticking together, and we'll be fine.
"Everyone falls, but you get back up and you just keep pushing."