Remember that write up prior to Big Blue Madness about the incoming and returning players, and how Kentucky was finally FINALLY going to have depth? Yeah, that is so 26 days ago!
On 10/15 (the day before BBM), Oregon transfer Chrishae Rowe was dismissed from the squad for failing to uphold the program's standards. Nine days later veteran star Linnae Harper announced she would be transferring from Kentucky to finish her career elsewhere. And just this past Tuesday, Matthew Mitchell announced that Morgan Rich would also be transferring from UK.
Matthew Mitchell was already facing an interesting start to the season due to the as-yet-ongoing suspension of Makayla Epps. With Epps on the sidelines, and Makenzie Cann sitting out due to transfer rules, this onslaught of transfers and dismissals reduced Kentucky to nine available scholarship players for the season opener. Then came the news of Alyssa Rice's stress fracture and and now we are down to EIGHT AVAILABLE PLAYERS?!?
But hey, it's UK Hoops. We're used to this, right? Last year we lost Ivana and Jaycee before the season even started due to the woeful tradition of Kentucky players being unable to drive a car safely, followed by serious injuries to 3 of our starters. To quote our fearless leader of the dance, the sky is definitely not falling. (Translation: Makayla will be back shortly.)
So now you know who will (and won't) be available for UK. With Makayla out, it's a safe bet that Janee will be the lead at point. I'd assume all seven other players will see decent court time. Hopefully with Ivana available we'll see just how much of an advantage her size and shooting will provide. And that's about all we can speculate on at this point from the UK Hoops' side of the ball!
Shifting our focus to the opposition, here's what we know about Union University:
- Located in Jackson, TN
- Team Nickname is "The Bulldogs"
- Unique Kentucky tie: Bear Bryant's coaching career began at Union, where he served for a short time in 1936 before becoming an assistant at Alabama.
- After a very successful tenure in the NAIA, Union began its transition to NCAA DII status in 2011 as part of the Gulf South Conference.
- Union has a strong history of excellence in women's basketball, having won the NAIA national title five times since 1998, to include its most recent title in 2010.
Last season, Union made it to the Sweet 16 of the DII NCAA tournament. So far this season they have fallen to LSU and beaten Rhodes College in exhibition games. Players to watch for the Bulldogs include junior forward Tiara Caldwell, freshman guard Jada Smith and senior guard Kelsey Risner.
Normally I'd lay out keys to success, but with our depleted ranks right now those would be:
- No one else get injured.
- No one should even attempt to drive an automobile.
- For the love of all that is holy, make free throws.
Despite the craziness of the situation described above, I continue to be truly excited about what this year could bring for UK Hoops. Janee's return to form will be fantastic to witness, and we should expect to see the Marion County Mafia that is Makayla Epps and Kyvin Goodin-Rogers have a terrific junior season. We have incredible incoming talent with a mix of experienced JUCO players as well as freshman rookies. And if nothing else, all the drama that has played out thus far should leave these Cats a very tight-knit group.
So until tipoff, Cat fans....GO BIG BLUE!