It's August, and you know what that means: students are returning to campus, people are busily plotting their camp-out strategies for Big Blue Madness tickets, and basketball speculation - a 24/7/365 element in any self-respecting UK fan's life, has kicked it up a notch or nine.
Let's feed that need, shall we? What WILL the 2015 line-up look like for UK Hoops?
Coming into the 2014 season, we faced the prospect of a team without A'Dia Matthies. As we begin 2015, we've lost four talented seniors who represented:
37% of our total scoring
34% of our 3 point shooting, where they sank 38% of their attempts
29% of our total FTs, making 68% of their attempts
39% of our steals
43% of our blocks
Ok, that's a lot to lose. Let's take a look at what we've gained:
First and foremost, we gained a healthy Kyvin Goodin-Rogers, who sat out last season with a pulmonary embolism. This 6'1" dynamo was a teammate of Makayla Epps at Marion County, where she was also a runner up for Kentucky's Miss Basketball. Kyvin was cleared to return to the court in May and having her size, quickness and will to win will be a definite plus for the Cats.
In addition to a healthy Goodin-Rogers, we have the 17th ranked class in the country joining the squad, bringing us both terrific skills and some much needed size. This includes:
Ivana Jakubcova (pronounced YAK-ub-SOVA) is an Amazon - Slovakazon?- JUCO transfer from Murray State College. Ivana is a 6'6" center, currently ranked the 20th best JUCO in the country. Her size will be a definite asset, as is her speed and shooting. Happily for Cat fans, we'll have 2 years to enjoy her skills at Memorial. She speaks four languages, and I'm really hoping this somehow translates into a new segment on the Matthew Mitchell show, where Matthew attempts to translate from Slovakian or Russian or whatever. (Bonus points if driving is involved.)
Alyssa Rice is a 6'3" center from Reynoldsburg, OH. Alyssa was the 20th ranked overall player of the 2014 class, and the #3 post player. In addition to being named a McDonald's All American, Alyssa was a member of the MaxPreps All-America team in 2013, and received an Honorable Mention for the WBCA All American team.
Alexis Jennings is a 6'2" forward from Harvest, AL. Ranked as the #9 forward in the country, Alexis was named to the WBCA All American team and the Gatorade Alabamba Player of the Year. Her high school coach summed it up. "She can shoot the three; she can post up with her back to the basket; she can run the floor, she can rebound, she's relentless on the offensive glass." This is a great pick by Mitchell, who will definitely be looking to replace the hole DeNesha and Samarie left in the lineup.
Last but not least is a 5'10" bundle of energy in the form of forward Jaycee Coe, of Cookeville, TN. In addition to being named Miss Basketball two years in a row, Jaycee was named the MVP of the 2013 Tennessee State Tournament, where she led her team to the title. Jaycee's parents clearly raised her right as she says UK has been her dream school since childhood.
Mitchell has done a terrific job bringing in much needed size to our squad, which ought to make constructing a starting lineup a fun Rubic's cube for the staff to solve.
In part 2 of this series, we'll examine the balance of this squad, and see who stands out as our potential leaders. In the meantime, see the video below to learn more about our incoming Wildcats!