No one would have blamed Blair Green if she had had reservations about committing to the University of Kentucky women’s basketball program before doing so during an in-home visit on Friday.
With all the uncertainty surrounding the program this offseason, Green — a Harlan County junior who should contend for Miss Basketball honors in 2018 — was a tad skittish about taking her talents to Lexington.
“I was like, ‘I don’t know if I really want to go into this wondering if something happened,’” Green said.
Coach Matthew Mitchell acknowledged the turmoil during a campus visit this summer. He put Green’s concerns to rest during that trip.
“(Mitchell) said, ‘I know so much more now,’” said Green, adding that Mitchell described the offseason as a blessing in some ways. “He said it really opened his eyes” in terms of who to bring into the program and how to engage with his players moving forward, she said. “Once I went down there, it felt right in my heart.”
Green, UK’s first class of 2018 commit, quickly connected with assistants Niya Butts and Kyra Elzy, who was an assistant at UK from 2008-2012 and rejoined the program this spring. Elzy recruited Green while she was an associate head coach at Tennessee and forged a bond that goes beyond the court.
“We don’t even talk about basketball half the time,” Green said. “Today we talked about what kind of mascara we use. Off-the-wall stuff. She just connects with us so well.”
That level of camaraderie extends to the rest of the staff as well as to the roster. Green grew up playing basketball with and sleeping over at the home of Maci Morris, a sophomore at UK who won Miss Basketball at Bell County in 2015. The girls’ mothers led Harlan to its first 13th Region title in 1987 and are best friends to this day.
Debbie Hoskins Green, Blair’s mom and coach at Harlan County, was the first girl from Harlan County to sign with the Wildcats. Debbie stayed out of Blair’s decision, which came down to between the home-grown charm of UK versus the sunshine and Hollywood stylings of UCLA.
“She didn’t try to influence me to go somewhere but I think (UK is) secretly where she wanted me to go,” Blair said with a laugh. “She wouldn’t tell me anything.”
With the pressure of choosing a college off her shoulders, Blair hopes to help Harlan County make history as her mother helped Harlan. The Black Bears have made four 13th Region championship games since the program started play in the 2008-09 season, but they haven’t yet reached a Sweet Sixteen.
“I know that they all want it and this is just a big boost for us,” Blair said.
Green plans to wear No. 5 at UK, the same number her mom wore there. She’s all-in with the Wildcats.
“This is where I belong,” Blair said of the school. “I need to represent my state and I want to help them win a national championship. I just want to represent Kentucky well.”