UK Women's Basketball

Wildcats wear inspiration on their wrists

They are not the words and phrases of Shakespeare or some such famous scribe.

They are not long-lasting morsels of literature for generations to ponder.

They are just words written in Sharpie on bits of tape that end up in the locker room trash can after each game.

But for Kentucky post players like Eleia Roddy and Victoria Dunlap, they are words to live by.

Or at least words to play by.

At the suggestion of assistant coach Wendy Palmer, the Kentucky post players have all taken to writing words and phrases of affirmation and inspiration on training tape on their wrists before each game.

"We're all wearing something to remind us to be a presence inside," Roddy said. "It reminds us of our responsibility to each other and our team."

It often varies from game to game, but for Roddy, those words and phrases include: "God's warrior," "Beast on the boards," "Aggressive inside," "Lead," "Believe," "Warrior," and "No. 1."

Dunlap's include: " Beastie," "Beast attack," "Aggressive," "Energy," " Relentless," and her personal favorite: "DFTD."

"It stands for Don't Fake The Defense," Dunlap said, quoting an old coach who told her she needed to focus daily on playing hard defense.

The players wouldn't know what to do without those constant reminders taped to their wrists.

"It's gotten to the point where if I didn't have it on my wrist, it would be weird," Roddy said. "It's become a comfort to me."

Dunlap said motivation is only an arm's length away.

"If we mess up in the game or something, we always have something there to remind us to refocus," Dunlap said.

As Kentucky starts Southeastern Conference play Thursday at No. 7 Tennessee, the Wildcats are going to continue to need big play from their biggest players.

"They need to be tremendously productive, especially in this game," Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "(Tennessee is) much deeper than we are in the post. They have a lot more bodies they can throw at us, but if Eleia and Victoria play well and at a high level, I feel good about our post matchups."

Seven of the Lady Vols' 12 players are freshmen, but they have plenty of depth and talent in the post.

They have six different players who are 6-foot-2 or taller and average 12 minutes or more a game. They are led inside by Shekinna Stricklin's 13.7 points and 5.9 rebounds a game. Glory Johnson adds 13.1 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Dunlap (12.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and Roddy (11.5 ppg, 9.2 rpg) have similar numbers and are riding streaks.

Roddy, a 6-3 senior center, has seven straight double-doubles, the most since former UK great Valerie Still recorded a school-record 11 straight during the 1982-83 season.

She leads the SEC and is seventh in the nation with eight double-doubles this season.

Dunlap leads UK in points, blocks and steals. The 6-foot-1 sophomore forward has scored in double figures 10 times this season, including two straight double-doubles.

She is UK's first player in four years to earn SEC Player of the Week honors, which she got this week after averaging 15.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in the Cats' last two wins.

It's gotten to the point where teammates and coaches are expecting double-doubles from the duo, especially point guard Amber Smith, who is charged with getting them the ball in the post.

"It's something that should be on the regular now," Smith said of the double-doubles. "I expect that, and I'm going to keep getting them the ball and know that they're going to keep getting it done. ... The harder you see them work, the more you want to get them the ball."

The two post players have vastly different personalities, but they have started to mesh well on the court.

They push each other in practice and in games.

"Vic loves the fact that I'm athletic and strong and I love the fact that she's athletic and strong, so it just gives me extra confidence to have her on the court with me," Roddy said. "If I'm not getting a rebound, I know Vic's going to get it."

There have been some games when they will look over and realize that they're battling each other for a loose ball.

"Whoever comes up with it, gets it," Dunlap said. "That's how it goes. We both want the ball no matter what."

Kentucky has either tied or won the rebounding battle in all but one game this season, including in 10 straight games. The Cats are 18th nationally and tied for first in the SEC in rebounding margin (+8.9).

If UK can succeed in the SEC and finish in the top four like it did last season, Mitchell knows it's going to need big effort from Roddy and Dunlap.

"For us to be as good a team as we think we can be, those two need to play well," he said.

They don't need any extra motivation from him. All of the motivation they need is taped to their wrists.

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