UK Women's Basketball

Cat finally making the cut

There was a time in the not so distant past that Brittany Edelen was just hours away from being cut from Kentucky's team.

Coach Matthew Mitchell had warned the former star from Washington County that she could either get her academics in order or she could clean out her locker.

"We had had several meetings and in each meeting he told me to get it together," she recalled. "The very last meeting, he said it was my last chance."

That meeting was before the start of summer school and Edelen's grade-point average had fallen below a 2.0.

She knew she could do better but had little motivation to do anything about it. It wasn't as if she was playing that much anyway.

Last season, the swing player played in just six games, averaging just five minutes a game, usually just junk minutes at the end of a big blowout for one side or the other.

"I wasn't working on my own personal game, and I wasn't doing the things I needed to do in the classroom, and I didn't have my attitude together," Edelen said. "I was still living in Brittany's world."

In that world, she didn't need to learn to handle the ball with her left hand or read assigned chapters in class.

But when Mitchell told her it was her final warning, Edelen realized how close she was to losing it all.

So she started studying.

"I had to buckle down in school, study all the time," she said. "I was basically being lazy before. It was just hard for me to sit down and just do it."

It worked and, in her summer school classes, she finished with a 3.0 grade-point average.

When she wasn't studying for one class or another, she was in the Craft Center gym — sometimes up to three times a day — working on the parts of her game that had kept her relegated to the UK bench and scout team most of the prior two seasons.

"I did a lot of growing up from the end of last season until now," she said.

Edelen smiles as broadly when she talks about her academic accomplishments as she does her on-the-court adjustments.

"I had to take responsibility for my actions and not blame other people for my mistakes," she said. "It's easy to point the finger unless you have to point it at yourself."

Improving on the court and in the classroom, has meant more playing time for Edelen, whose effort hasn't gone unnoticed by her teammates.

"She's been through a lot to stay on this team," sophomore forward Victoria Dunlap said of Edelen. "It's shown us all just how deep her commitment is to this team and to being a part of it."

Edelen has improved so much on the court this season, she's earned five starts. In her past two seasons combined, she had scored a total of 41 points.

In one four-game span this season, she dropped a combined 47 points, and has finished in double figures in four of her last eight games.

"I'm proud of the progress she's made," Mitchell said. "At one time, Brittany was being stubborn to a fault."

When Edelen got a little too big for her britches again this season, Mitchell benched her versus Santa Barbara just before the holiday break.

"She could have returned and tanked because she didn't get to play," Mitchell said. "But she came back after Christmas and had the best practice she's had. Her play has been terrific since.

"I give her a lot of credit for her being able to listen to what we need her to do and then going out and practicing to earn some playing time."

Much like in the classroom, Edelen had to make a decision to buckle down and learn basketball.

Not the free-wheeling basketball she was allowed to play at Washington County, where she finished as the school's all-time leading scorer with 2,559 points and 1,752 rebounds (fourth best in state history).

Edelen had to learn to play within herself and her team. She couldn't just jack up shot after shot. She had to study the playbook and learn the plays, something she said she'd never done.

She confessed this week that once she learned the plays she realized just how well she fit into the UK system. The swing player averages 15 minutes a game now as well as 4.2 points and 3.2 rebounds.

Now that she's on track to graduate with a degree in kinesiology next year and to be a contributor on the basketball court, Edelen can't believe it took her so long to get her act together.

But she's glad she finally did.

"I'm thankful that I had another opportunity to get it together," she said. "I love this school. I love playing for this university and that could have been gone in a minute. I try to remember that every day."