But the Cats' star guard still has some work to do to be taken off suspension for transgressions in her hometown in April, Coach Matthew Mitchell told the Herald-Leader on Wednesday.
"There are layers to the process," Mitchell explained of Epps' suspension, the terms of which he has not disclosed, after she was found in a park in Lebanon at 1:48 a.m. on April 12 with another minor.
"Can she be a positive team member? The only way to find that out is to get her involved in some team stuff," he said. "If the team is going out to do community service, that's a good thing for Makayla. And she had to do community service in Marion County, too. Those things are good."
The 20 hours of community service she completed in her hometown erased the alcohol-related charges from the incident, but she still has some work to do at UK, her coach said.
"What we're trying to do with Makayla is we're trying to make it a permanent change," he said. "That's why I didn't say, 'You're suspended three weeks' and then she straightens up for three weeks. It's a daily exercise. ...
"Great kid, great heart — not the strongest in decision making — not the best in choices that are going to lead her to permanent, lasting success."
Epps, an All-Southeastern Conference First Team selection, led Kentucky in scoring with 14.9 points a game and averaged 4.6 rebounds and 3 assists a game last season.
Mitchell said his hope is that Epps, who will be a junior this season, will be back in good standing by the time full-team workouts begin Sept. 15, but he doesn't want to impose an artificial deadline. Those don't lead to permanent, lasting change.
"I'm hoping this is a one-game suspension and we're headed in the right direction," he said. "That would mean she wasn't perfect, but her mind will be in the right spot to make good decisions, better than the ones she was making."
Even though she's still not at full speed, Mitchell has seen many positive signs that point guard Janee Thompson will be 100 percent by the start of the season after a horrific leg injury in January cut her junior season short.
"Tuesday has been her best day of the summer so far from the standpoint of running," he said the next day. "It's a process. Bone is great, healed great. She's done a great job of rehab. She's not 100 percent."
The 5-foot-7 senior sustained a broken left fibula and dislocated ankle on Jan. 11 while scrambling for a loose ball at top-ranked South Carolina.
The goal is to have Thompson back to full speed by the time team workouts begin Sept. 15, but he's leaving that up to doctors, trainers and Thompson.
"She has come a long way in the last four weeks," he said. "The last part is mental, emotional, trusting the healing. All of that is a process and I think she's handled it really well."
Mitchell played a role in a new format that will change the way the women's game looks this season as it moves from two 20-minute halves to four 10-minute quarters.
He was head of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association committee that recommended the NCAA move forward with the changes that they hope will lead to more exciting play. Other adjustments include changes to bonus situations and timeouts.
The new format also will put the college game in line with every other level of basketball in the world. And while it may seem like an insignificant change, his group is hopeful that "maybe a bunch of small things will add up to move us forward," he said.
There was "a lot of discussion. Some for, some against. But it will be positive and grow the game."
The changes were brought about by feedback his group received from coaches who have been a part of international teams that argued the four quarters make the game more watchable, exciting and progressive.
Television also played a role, arguing that when a viewer turns on a random women's basketball game and sees there's 10 minutes left in the first half, he or she might not stay on the channel. But if there's eight seconds left in the first quarter, a viewer is more compelled to stop to see what happens.
"From a coaching standpoint, to me, it's fun," he said. "It will make me grow as a coach. You double your end-of-clock situations, so you need to spend time on it."