Virginia represents an interesting matchup for Kentucky women’s basketball Thursday night in Rupp Arena in more ways than one.
Let’s count three.
All-time great at helm
The Cavaliers are led by first-year head coach Tina Thompson, who was once the all-time leading scorer in WNBA history until passed by Diana Taurasi.
Thompson, 43, was the first-ever draft pick in the WNBA back in 1997 and more than lived up to the hype in a 17-year professional career that saw her earn four WNBA titles, all with the Houston Comets and two Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008).
Thompson, who played collegiately at Southern Cal, spent three seasons on staff at Texas, the last as associate head coach, before taking the Virginia job. She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame this year.
Thompson succeeded Joanne Boyle, who retired abruptly from coaching after leading the Cavaliers to their first NCAA appearance since 2010 in her seventh season in 2017-18.
At the time, Boyle cited the reason for retiring as a “family matter,” but subsequent reports revealed her having to deal with massive red tape in adopting a young daughter from Senegal and gaining her citizenship status in the United States.
The process, unbelievably, was taking years and, in the last year, it seemed the bureaucratic hurdles Boyle had to deal with might include having to take the 6-year-old back to her native home and live with her there for a time.
ESPN last chronicled the ordeal in June, but no other updates have been published since.
Virginia returns a number of key components from a team that went 19-14 last season, including an upset of a better-seeded California team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Virginia was among the “others receiving votes,” in the AP’s preseason top 25 poll.
The Cavaliers opened the season against No. 6 Mississippi State, taking a 68-53 loss in Starkville. Kentucky will have to make that same trek early in the Southeastern Conference portion of the schedule on Jan. 6, and should be able to take a good measure of their revamped attack against Virginia.
Virginia at Kentucky
When: 8:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Where: Rupp Arena