UK Women's Basketball

UK women promote recruiting wiz Elzy

It's often the most difficult decision of a young player's life.

Where will she spend the next four years? At what program will she fit in best?

In many different ways, Kentucky's Kyra Elzy provides answers to some of those tough questions.

At least that's what two incoming freshmen said earlier this week of the Cats' assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.

"If you have any problems, you can go to her about anything," UK freshman forward Samantha Drake said. "She's there for you and she's not just putting on a show. She's very cool and down to earth."

It's those reasons and many more that UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said he decided to promote Elzy to associate head coach.

"I couldn't have a better person in this position and she's one of the most talented people that I've ever been around," Mitchell said at a news conference Thursday.

When Drake, a Nelson County native, decided to withdraw her commitment to Kentucky late last year, she wasn't sure what to expect.

But Elzy was great, Drake said.

"She kept her cool the whole time, which made me feel better," Drake said. "She didn't change her personality at all."

It's that calm, steadiness and big-sisterly style that seems to attract high school players to Kentucky.

It helped UK sign a top-five recruiting class this past season (according to one service) and now has Kentucky being named among the final schools (with the likes of Connecticut, Tennessee, Georgia and Duke) for some of the biggest recruits next season.

"She's extremely creative," Mitchell said of Elzy. "She thinks about recruiting a lot and how we can get an edge. She's a tireless worker, unbelievably organized and has great leadership skills. She keeps everyone moving forward in recruiting."

Some of the top players in the Class of 2011 have or have had UK on their radar, such as No. 6 Ariel Massengale, No. 12 Betnijah Laney and No. 22 Isabelle Harrison.

The third-ranked player in this class, Bria Smith, had Kentucky on her short list before ultimately committing to Virginia.

UK already has a verbal commitment from No. 71 Bria Goss out of Indiana.

Chris Mennig, a recruiting analyst for BlueStar Basketball, rated UK's 2010 class No. 5 in the nation. He credited the UK assistant with much of that.

"Her ability to connect with young women is truly a gift," Mennig said. "She is one of the bright stars in the game. She is easily one of the top five female recruiters in the country."

He doesn't have to tell that to Drake or fellow freshman Kastine Evans. They were wooed by Elzy and the other members of Kentucky's staff.

"Coach Elzy's just real cool," Evans said. "She's kind of the mom of the team. She's always the one that keeps in so much contact with us like a mother would do. She's somebody down to earth that makes you feel like this is home."

Evans said at the end of the process, Elzy was in her ear.

"She definitely kept in touch and kept telling me how good the program was and how I could make an impact on the program," Evans said.

Prior to joining Mitchell's staff in 2008, Elzy, 32, was an assistant at Kansas, where she helped the Jayhawks land their first-ever top-20 recruiting class. She had some success before that at Western Kentucky University.

Elzy, a LaGrange native who played for Pat Summitt at Tennessee, has been a natural fit at UK.

"Being a Kentucky girl, you take pride in wanting to see this university be successful," Elzy said. "I'm very blessed to be at the University of Kentucky."

Notes

In a nearly 30-minute news conference on Thursday, Mitchell discussed several topics, including:

■ He confirmed that UK signee La'Quinta Jefferson is not on the roster for next season and that she's attending a junior college.

■ Mitchell said senior point guard Amber Smith's surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament went well and that the plan is for her to attempt to return sometime this season, perhaps as early as the end of December.

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