It's hard to miss the excitement in Camryn Whitaker's voice.
Not many new assistant coaches already can call their new employer "a place I love" or a "place that I'm passionate about."
Usually those things take time, but for Whitaker, a position on Coach Matthew Mitchell's staff at Kentucky means a chance to go home.
The Cynthiana native, who starred at Harrison County and Western Kentucky, grew up in a family that bled blue.
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"My grandfather has season tickets to the men's games and used to take my sister and me all the time when we were little," Whitaker said Thursday night after UK announced she had signed a one-year deal worth $140,000. "We went to women's games as I got older and was playing in high school. We definitely were Kentucky fans."
Whitaker, 33, fills the opening created when Christian Stefanopoulos left the program at the start of last season with what the school called an undisclosed illness.
"I have always been impressed with her energy and the power she has to connect with people," Mitchell said in a release about Whitaker, the second assistant coach he's hired away from Dayton in as many seasons.
"I have greatly admired her ability to develop players. She has been a very successful recruiter, and her passion for Kentucky and her desire to make a difference in this program are qualities that I greatly appreciate."
Whitaker didn't know it at the time, but she got a close look at the players she'll be coaching at Kentucky while scouting them this season. The Flyers knocked off UK at Memorial Coliseum in the NCAA Tournament a month ago.
Whitaker liked what she saw in the Kentucky players.
"I like to coach kids who want to be in the gym, to put in the extra work and improve their game individually in order to help the team," she said. "I really believe in that. Just good, solid, fundamental, hard-working players. I like blue-collar players. It's something the game has lost a little bit of. ... They definitely possess those qualities."
As did Whitaker when she was at Harrison County and Western.
While at WKU, she started all but nine of her 126 games and led the Toppers to 97 wins, including post-season trips in each of her five seasons. Whitaker is top 10 in the record books for career assists (486), games started (117) and steals (170).
While playing for her father, Mac Whitaker, at Harrison County, she made her mark on the Kentucky high school record books, too, scoring 2,574 career points, and grabbing 528 steals.
Her 2,510 career field goal attempts were fourth most in state history and she made 39 percent of those shots. Her 283 assists in a single season still are fourth best in state history.
Her father coached Harrison County for 11 seasons and compiled a 241-97 record, including Sweet Sixteen trips in 2000 (with Camryn) and 2002. Mac Whitaker is in his 38th season coaching Harrison County baseball with 1,026 wins and four state championships.
Before her three seasons at Dayton, Whitaker was an assistant for one season at WKU and had coaching stints at Missouri State and Austin Peay.
She's happy to be home.
"Growing up in Cynthiana, I've watched the program grow before my eyes," Whitaker said. "I'm just honored to be able to work for Kentucky and Coach Mitchell, a person that shares the same values as I do. I'm really excited about that."