Kentucky missed the NCAA Tournament last year. How Matthew Mitchell plans to keep that from happening again.
Getting to know Kentucky’s players for 2018-19:
Vitals: The 6-foot-1 redshirt junior forward is from Miami. Her major is biology.
The lowdown: Anyagaligbo probably will be shaking off some rust early in the season, trying to come back not only from last season’s knee injury but also a missed year per NCAA transfer rules. The Stony Brook transfer has a competitive streak “that borders on a little nastiness, which is good for our team,” Coach Matthew Mitchell said. The forward, is physical, tough and long.
Nae Nae Cole
Vitals: The 6-foot-3 redshirt senior center is a transfer from North Carolina State. Her major is social work.
The lowdown: Former Wolfpack reserve has a season of eligibility remaining after sitting this season per NCAA transfer rules.
Vitals: The 6-foot freshman guard is from Harlan (Harlan County High School). Her major is kinesiology.
The lowdown: A smart, versatile player with the basketball IQ, length and speed to contribute immediately. Green has both an outside shot and the ability to penetrate and get points, averaging 26 points and 6.5 rebounds a game as a high school senior while hitting nearly 60 percent of her shots. Mitchell called the guard “bouncy and explosive.”
Vitals: The 5-foot-10 redshirt junior from Phoenix is a transfer from Arizona State. Her major is journalism.
The lowdown: Another versatile player who will provide depth and length against Kentucky in practices this season while she sits out a season per NCAA transfer rules.
Vitals: The 6-foot senior forward is from Bowling Green (Warren Central). Her major is marketing.
The lowdown: Joined team during open tryouts two years ago and helps with high energy and positive attitude. The former walk-on was awarded a scholarship during the offseason and is the most vocal senior on the team. Halsel could be a key leader even from the bench.
Vitals: The 6-foot-3 sophomore center is from Nashville. Her major is pre-marketing.
The lowdown: UK announced Oct. 22 that the forward, who was the third-highest returning scorer and a likely starter in the post, will sit out for an undisclosed amount of time while working through what the head coach called “a personal health issue.” Harrison could be an instant jolt on both ends when she’s able to return.
Vitals: The 6-foot-2 freshman guard is from Cleveland, Tenn. Her major is pre-civil engineering.
The lowdown: The Most Valuable Player from a gold-medal winning USA Basketball team this summer, Howard can do a little bit of everything. She’s an “extremely intelligent player” that can play and guard nearly every spot on the floor. A gifted shooter in a forward’s body, Howard could be an immediate impact player for UK.
Vitals: The 6-foot-1 sophomore forward is from Knoxville. Her major is social work.
The lowdown: Played in 30 games with 17 starts for her ability to defend nearly ever spot on the floor and her vocal leadership. McKinney, who averaged 4.7 points and 3.7 rebounds last year, missed much of the summer coming back from the lingering effects of a concussion, but she is back now and will be a good fit with UK’s new up-tempo plans “She’s going to make a big jump this year,” Mitchell predicted.
Vitals: The 6-foot senior guard is from Pineville (Bell County). Her major is kinesiology.
The lowdown: Made a huge leap offensively from her sophomore season to her junior season and could make an even more complete one in her final season especially on defense, Mitchell said. At 47.5 percent, Morris was the second-best three-point shooter in the country last season, Morris led the Cats in scoring last season with 17.3 points despite being double- and triple-teamed regularly. Morris also is a strong rebounder (3.6 boards a game last year) and distributor (1.8 assists).
Vitals: The 5-foot-6 senior guard is from Odenton, Md. Her major is public health.
The lowdown: Speedy, smart point guard who led or was second on the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals. Will be an excellent weapon for UK as it moves back to a more pressure-packed defense with a fast pace. Murray is playing with as much confidence on offense as she’s had on defense, Mitchell said, and she’s worked hard on her three-point shooting and to finish effectively with both hands this summer.
Vitals: The 5-foot-7 junior guard is from Brooklyn, N.Y. Her major is psychology.
The lowdown: One of the most improved players on the team, Paschal has been a force in five-on-five this preseason. ”She’s really set a great example of hustle and another really smart, crafty, intelligent basketball player that knows how to make plays,” Mitchell said of left-handed guard, who will look to improve on her 4.7 points and 2.1 rebounds per-game averages from last year.
Vitals: The 5-foot-8 senior guard is from Morgantown, W.Va. Her major is biology.
The lowdown: Will serve as a student coach of sorts after a recent announcement that the walk-on is having to retire early due to an illness.
Vitals: The 5-foot-6 sophomore point guard is from Hopkins, S.C. Her major is kinesiology and health promotion.
The lowdown: After averaging just 7.3 minutes a game and playing in 15 games last season, the speedy guard has “made a big jump,” Mitchell said, especially in her decision-making. Expect her 1.5 points per game average to increase with her minutes this season as UK transitions to a faster tempo.
Vitals: The 5-foot-6 junior guard is from Memphis. Her major is psychology.
The lowdown: Undersized guard “has worked so hard on her body and strength” this offseason to help her finish with contact and take the physical play in the league, Mitchell said of the junior. As she was last season, Roper will provide some spark off the Cats’ bench at both guard spots, hoping to improve on her 4.9 points per game contribution.
Vitals: The 6-foot-2 sophomore forward is from Columbus, Ga. Her major is psychology.
The lowdown: Injuries slowed the development of Wyatt, and Mitchell worries that the weight of expectations was heavy on all of the UK freshmen last season. Wyatt, who averaged 6.6 points and 3.5 rebounds a game last season, will be asked to play a little bit of everywhere for UK this year, potentially as a sharp outside shooter and a post defender. She has the versatility to be both.