Jen Smith on Basketball

Former Kentucky forward Jennings transfers to play for South Carolina

Former Kentucky forward Alexis Jennings, one of several players to leave the program in the past few months, is heading to play for one of the Cats’ biggest rivals: South Carolina.

Gamecocks Coach Dawn Staley announced the transfer on Twitter Wednesday afternoon. Jennings will have to sit out for one season per NCAA transfer rules before being eligible to play for the defending Southeastern Conference champion for two seasons.

“It’s a great day to be a Gamecock,” Staley said in a news release. “Alexis joining our Gamecock family brings us a proven, versatile player. Her ability to score with her back to the basket and stretch the floor with her three-point shot makes us instantly better.”

As UK’s permanent home-and-home opponent, South Carolina has become a bitter rival with Kentucky the past few seasons. It likely will be more heated with Jennings now playing for the Gamecocks.

The 6-foot-2 forward from Alabama was the Cats’ fourth leading scorer last season, playing in all 33 games, starting in 18 of them. She averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds a game.

Jennings was granted an unconditional release by UK Coach Matthew Mitchell in early May.

“I talked last week about needing to give our players a clear path forward in our program and it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky,” Mitchell said in a news release after her exit. “She alerted me today that she felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity. I appreciate her hard work the past two years and hope she finds success.”

Since October, five players including Jennings have transferred out of the program, another graduated and transferred and another was dismissed. Both of UK’s 2016 signees were let out of their national letters of intent and opted to go elsewhere.Many future Cats commitments also have balked.

In the past three seasons, eight different coaches have parted ways with the program, including all three from last season’s 25-8 team whose season ended in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.