The University of Kentucky women’s basketball team officially opens its 2019-20 season Nov. 5. For new Wildcats guard Chasity Patterson, however, the season starts Dec. 21.
On the latter date, the transfer from the University of Texas will have finished sitting out the two college semesters required (minus an NCAA waiver) of players who switch teams. Patterson will make her UK debut in a game at California.
“I can’t wait,” Patterson said Wednesday following a UK practice.
When the 5-foot-5 product of Houston officially takes the court for the Cats, she will become the highest-rated prospect, based on ESPN’s HoopGurlz rankings, to play for Kentucky during the Matthew Mitchell coaching era (2007 through the present).
Kentucky sophomore star Rhyne Howard, who swept every major national freshman of the year award for 2018-19, was criminally underrated at No. 32 in the class of 2018.
Makayla Epps, who left Lexington in 2017 as the fourth all-time leading scorer in UK Hoops history, was ranked No. 37 in the class of 2013.
A’dia Mathies, who led Kentucky to three trips to the NCAA Tournament round of eight and finished as the second all-time scorer in UK women’s basketball history, was severely undervalued at No. 65 in the class of 2009.
Patterson, conversely, was ranked the No. 4 overall player in the class of 2017. That made her the nation’s top point guard prospect.
She will supersede ex-Cats guard Linnae Harper — rated No. 5 in the class of 2013 — as the highest-ranked recruit to play for Mitchell.
Patterson’s journey to Kentucky did not travel a straight line.
“They recruited me out of high school,” Patterson says of UK. “I always loved the (Kentucky) coaching staff. But I picked staying closer to home.”
In Houston, Patterson was a basketball prodigy who grew into a high school and AAU hoops legend.
At North Shore High School, Patterson averaged 17 points a game as a freshman, 21 as a sophomore and 24.4 as a junior.
In her senior year, she put up a stat line of 28.7 points a game, 6.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists.
She left North Shore as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 3,177 career points. That’s why, at the 2017 McDonald’s All-American Game, they started calling Patterson “3K.”
In Chicago, she won the Mickey D’s three-point shooting contest, then went for 14 points, six assists and four steals in the All-American game itself.
Before Patterson ever played for Texas, she was tabbed the Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year.
Yet, in Austin, Patterson’s career never really lifted off. In 24 games as a Texas freshman, she averaged 2.8 points.
She stuck it out and came back for her sophomore season. However, after playing only nine minutes and scoring six points in last year’s season opener against Duquesne, Patterson left the Longhorns.
“It just didn’t work out,” Patterson said of her time at Texas. “I try not to focus too much on the past. I’m trying to just move forward.”
Again an available recruit, Patterson thought back to the comfort level she felt with the Kentucky coaching staff during her first go-round as a prospect.
“I could tell they were genuine,” Patterson said. “I got that vibe from them when they came and did a house visit with me in my (original) recruiting process. Then, communicating with them after my second time coming out in recruiting, I still felt that connection.”
In Mitchell’s preferred up-tempo style of play, speedy point guards are a treasured commodity. The UK coach calls Patterson’s pairing with Kentucky “a perfect match.”
While spending two semesters here in Lexington without live game action, Patterson says she has used the time to refine her craft. Often that has included time watching video with Kentucky assistant coach Amber Smith, a former UK starting point guard herself.
“I’m definitely spending time with film and Coach Amber,” Patterson says. “As a point guard, there are so many things you have to focus in on. You have to know each position. Those one-on-one film sessions with the coaches, I’ve been able to figure out different things, (learn) the plays, know what to do on different reads.”
During last school year’s second semester, Patterson dueled with then-Wildcats senior point guard Taylor Murray in practice.
“It was great,” Patterson says. “I love going against fast guards like myself. (Murray) really pushed me every day.”
During the annual preseason basketball pep rally that is UK’s Big Blue Madness, Patterson gave Wildcats fans a glimpse of what made her a Texas high school phenom.
She outlasted senior guard Amanda Paschal in the final round to win the women’s three-point shooting contest.
Once Dec. 21 finally gets here, Patterson is excited for UK fans to see the full scope of what she can do.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Chasity Patterson says.
Important upcoming dates
Oct. 22: Media Day
Oct. 30: Exhibition game vs. Southern Indiana
Nov. 5: Season opener vs. Mount St. Mary’s (Md.)