UK Women's Basketball

Top recruits buy in to Mitchell's pitch

One recruiting service has Kentucky's class in the top 10 in the nation. Another has it in the top 15. Another has it in the top 25.

But no matter what service you subscribe to, Matthew Mitchell and his staff have brought in the Cats' top recruiting class in his tenure as head coach and the highest ranked at UK since 2006.

In Mitchell's two seasons so far, UK hasn't had the success of a Connecticut or Tennessee or Duke, but Kentucky is getting mentioned among those schools on the short lists of some of the nation's biggest recruits.

In the class of 2010, UK (33-32 over the last two seasons) has signed three players ranked in the nation's top 70 in Jennifer O'Neill (No. 30), Laquinta Jefferson (64), Kastine Evans (67) as well as a top guard out of Texas in Maegan Conwright and Lexington Christian star Sarah Beth Barnette.

Kyra Elzy, UK's assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, said the program has some great selling points.

"I don't know if there's anything easy about recruiting, but once we get them here to really see our girls and our staff and our facilities, we have a better chance than most because we have some amazing things to sell," Elzy said.

She mentioned the administrative support for the program and the new Joe Craft Center as positives, but also just the mystique of Kentucky basketball.

"What we're selling is that Kentucky is known for basketball," she said. "But the thing we say most is that Kentucky fans are going to come out and support the program."

Mitchell said he doesn't think recruits are overly concerned with the program's record the past few seasons.

"I don't think kids are as in tune with the real specifics of things," he said. "I don't think kids in the ninth or 10th grade are sitting around and analyzing data.

"There is no doubt that the brand name Kentucky gets people's attention in recruiting. When they hear 'Kentucky,' they think, 'That's a great basketball school.'"

But mostly he credited the assistant coaches and staff for making UK an inviting place for some of the nation's best recruits. With the off-season addition of assistant coach Shalon Pillow, Mitchell now has a complete staff of his own making.

"Playing time and all of those things are details you try to sell," Mitchell said. "A lot of schools can do that, but it comes back down to the people who are selling that.

"We'll ultimately be successful here because it's a great place, but mostly because it has great people."

The early national reviews on this class are good, despite the late de-commitment of Nelson County's Samantha Drake, a top 100 player who now says she has committed to Michigan State.

Analyst Chris Mennig of BlueStar Basketball has UK's class listed at No. 8 in the nation. Kentucky is the highest Southeastern Conference school on the list.

Louisville is fourth in the country. Mennig said he originally had UK at No. 5, just behind the Cards, before Drake's defection.

ESPN's Hoopgurlz has the Cats' class at No. 15 in the nation after originally having it in the top 10.

"The last-minute de-commitment of No. 74 Samantha Drake kept the Wildcats from a top 10 class," the Web site said. "But that shouldn't diminish the strength of this class from top to bottom with players who can contribute early in their careers."

Cats try to stay perfect

Kentucky (3-0) will try to remain undefeated when it hosts Chattanooga at 6 p.m. Sunday in Memorial Coliseum. The Wildcats haven't lost to the Lady Mocs in seven previous meetings.

Chattanooga (1-2) travels to Lexington after a 74-57 loss to No. 16 Georgia at home on Thursday. Shanara Hollinquest, the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Year, led the Lady Mocs with 20 points and 11 rebounds for her second double-double of the season.