By Dr. John Huang
Kentucky Women’s Basketball head coach Matthew Mitchell has a tendency to ramble. If you like long-winded discourses, then he’s your man.
During this year’s UKWBB Media Day, Mitchell, entering his 13th season, was asked about all sorts of topics regarding the updated version of his team. As expected, he talked and talked without really saying too much.
UK fans are getting used to all his incessant talking points: Energy and hustle, bonding as a team, high-character individuals, depth, versatility, great attitudes, staying focused, coming together, and blah blah blah blah blah. I want badly to believe him, but isn’t the definition of insanity hearing something over and over again and expecting different results?
Same Old, Same Old?
Earlier this year, the Wildcats were picked to finish fourth in the conference. That’s a position they’re really getting accustomed to–generally competitive, but not good enough to challenge the big dogs in the SEC. Mitchell’s teams have always struggled to defend the big presence in the middle. That’s been their Achilles heel in years past. With no inside presence, this year might be no different.
Plus, Mitchell lost arguably one of the best backcourts in the history of the program with the graduation of Maci Morris and Taylor Murray. Asking returning senior guards Jaida Roper and Amanda Paschal to fill those shoes is a very tall order.
The Difference Makers
Mitchell wouldn’t say it–perhaps to not put too much pressure on her–but Rhyne Howard is a superstar difference maker. The 6-2 sophomore, who averaged 16.4 points per game as a freshman last year, is arguably one of the best players in the nation. She’s a once-in-a-lifetime type talent who can put the team on her back singlehandedly and carry them on to heights never before achieved.
I meant that literally as I asked her about her newfound hops.
Sophomore Blair Green promises to be a fan favorite this year. She brings a level of athleticism and versatility that fits right into the Mitchell system of spreading the floor and being able to hit the open shot. How effectively Green and Howard are able to stretch opposing defenses will be a major key in how successful this team can be.
“I think this is one of those seasons that could be very special if we can all pull together and put it together,” said Mitchell. “This is going to be one of those teams that people are just going to fall in love with and enjoy watching play this year.”
I believe Coach Mitchell in that regard. This team will be exciting and fun to watch. Whether that translates into more wins remains to be seen.