Kentucky has suspended leading scorer Makayla Epps for an undetermined time for alcohol-related charges pending in her hometown.
Terms of her suspension were not disclosed by UK Coach Matthew Mitchell in a more than 30-minute news conference Wednesday afternoon, but the first-team All-Southeastern Conference player will miss at least one game next season.
"She'll have to hit some very strenuous and strict guidelines," Mitchell said in the wide-ranging interview. "She'll have to meet guidelines to be reinstated to the team. It is up to her now to make that happen."
Epps, 19, has pleaded not guilty to several alcohol-related charges stemming from an incident in Lebanon, when the point guard was found in a car with another female minor at a park at 1:48 a.m. April 12.
A police officer noted the smell of alcohol and found an open Bud Light in the back seat. The report also said that Epps had slurred speech and that a Breathalyzer test showed the "presence of alcohol."
The guard pleaded not guilty last week and has a pretrial conference on Monday.
Mitchell said Epps "feels really badly" about what happened.
"Makayla has a very good heart," he said. "Her decision making is questionable right now, so it's my job as someone important in her life and someone who loves her and cares about her and has great concern for her well being and her future to now give her the structure and discipline she needs so she can become a great decision maker."
The coach noted that the suspension was an opportunity for Epps to grow as a player and person.
"She certainly can find her way back and move forward in a positive way, but our players have to understand that they are they most visible group of young women in this state and that there's a responsibility that comes with that," Mitchell said.
The 2013 Miss Kentucky Basketball from Marion County is coming off a breakout season at Kentucky in which she led the Cats with 14.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, three assists and 1.3 steals a game.
UK could add to roster
Even with four new signees joining Kentucky this summer, the Cats have only 12 scholarship players. The NCAA allows women's basketball teams to carry 15.
Mitchell didn't rule out adding players to the roster during the offseason.
"It's a consideration," he said. "I can't comment specifically on that, but it's possible that we can add other players, and I'm really excited about this roster and who we have currently.
"If nothing changes, we have a very exciting roster. If we can improve it over the next few weeks or the coming months, we'll always look to do that."
At least one report has UK in the mix for junior-college player of the year Evelyn Akhator, a 6-foot-3 forward from Nigeria who played for Chipola Community College in Florida. She reportedly has Tennessee, Texas, Florida State and UK on her final list.
Thompson on way back
Soon-to-be senior point guard Janee Thompson got word that the broken bone in her leg has fully healed and she can begin the next step in her return to action, Mitchell said.
There is no specific timetable for when she will return, he added. The team comes back to campus for the eight-week summer session on June 10 and starts workouts the week after that.
"We'll take it real slow," Mitchell said. "I know she's chomping at the bit to get back out there. She's very excited to have this part of her rehabilitation behind her. She's very excited the bone healed."
Thompson broke her left fibula Jan. 11 during a nationally televised game at South Carolina while scrambling for a loose ball. The Chicago native had surgery the next day at Kentucky.
The 5-foot-7 guard had started 50 of 86 career games, including 31 in a row before the injury.
Cats head to national tryouts
Two current Kentucky players and one on her way to campus have been selected to try out for various national teams this summer, UK announced Wednesday.
Forward Alexis Jennings and incoming freshman Batouly Camara have accepted invitations to attend the 2015 USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team Trials from May 14 to 17 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Linnae Harper, a sophomore guard, has been invited to try out for the 2015 USA Basketball Pan American Games and World University Games Team Trials, also in Colorado Springs.
■ Kentucky was short an assistant coach for most of the season and will be short one during the summer evaluation period while Tamika Williams has her baby, which is due the first week of June, Mitchell said. Amy Tilley, UK assistant athletics director for women's basketball ,will be out on the recruiting trail in Williams' place.
■ New assistant coach Camryn Whitaker will be in charge of coordinating recruiting efforts for the team, Mitchell said.
■ All four of UK's seniors are graduating Saturday, and three of them, Jennifer O'Neill, Bria Goss and Azia Bishop, have hired agents and are pursuing professional basketball opportunities.