Friday night, in front of a nationwide audience, Coach Matthew Mitchell will introduce his 2015-2016 Wildcats to the Big Blue Nation. Some we know and love dearly from their previous seasons with UK, some we know only by recruiting lists. All will wear the Blue and White proudly. Let's meet YOUR UK Hoop Cats!
First up: the newbies! And there are a LOT of them - 8 of our 13 players are new this year.
6' 6" Senior Ivana Jakubcova: Ivana actually joined the Cats last fall but a stress fracture in her right leg kept our tallest recruit since 2010 from playing at Memorial. A native of Slovakia, Ivana transferred from Murray State College (#20 Junior College Player for 2013) and has two years of eligibility remaining. In addition to some much needed height, Ivana brings great speed and shooting to Lexington.
6' 3" Junior Evelyn Akhator: Nigerian Evelyn Akhator transferred to Kentucky after a very successful career at Chipola Junior College. During her tenure in Marianna Florida, Evelyn set new records for in both scoring and rebounding, where she averaged 21 ppg, 17 rebounds and 3 blocks.
5' 8" Sophomore Crishae Rowe : Crishae is from Corona, CA and is joing Kentucky after an outstanding freshman year at Oregon. In addition to setting a new Oregon single-game scoring record (41), Crishae's 690 total point and 21.6 ppg average were the most by any freshman in the school's history. She was a 4 star recruit who ranked 67th in ESPN's Hot 100 her senior year at Santiago High School. Per NCAA rules, Crishae can play for the Cats in December after the fall academic season closes.
6'2" Freshman Batouly Camara: Matthew Mitchell is bringing another big player from NYC in the form of Batouly Camara. A 4 star power forward, Batouly was listed as #53 on ESPN's Hot 100. Per recruiting scouts, Batouly is "A power-body insider (who) finishes vs. contact, delivers at the charity stripe; physical and aggressive with consistent interior game; rebounder deluxe, produces on the block." She also averaged 12.5 ppg along with 12 rebounds. Batouly was recruited by UConn, Louisville, Oklahoma and Princeton, and we're thrilled she chose to bring her skills to Lexington.
6" Freshman Maci Morris: A native of Pineville, Maci has been a starter for the Bell County Lady Cats since she was in 8th grade. Maci was named Kentucky's "Miss Basketball" in March, and if that doesn't tell you everything you need to know about this player, then consider these scouting comments: "Smooth, efficient off-guard handles, manufactures in mid-range game to the arc; plays under control, reads spacing, distributes in transition, secondary ball handler vs. pressure; mid-range game producer with consistent results." Maci chose UK, her "dream school", over Louisville, Dayton and Marquette.
5' 6" Freshman Taylor Murray: Odenton, MD native Taylor Murray is ranked as the #18th best point guard by ESPN and 15th best player overall within the 2015 recruiting class by MaxPreps. Taylor also played on the USA Women's Basketball U16 team in 2013. Mitchell compared her style of play to Kentucky great Amber Smith; a defense minded-PG who made the opposition crazy with her tenacity. Studying under Janee Thompson and Makayala Epps ought to take those talents to the next level! Taylor chose to play for the Cats over Penn State and West Virginia, and we're excited to see what she can do at Memorial.
5' 10" Freshman Morgan Rich: A top talent from Scottsville, Morgan broke the Allen County scoring record with 1,754 points during her high school career. Morgan is recovering from an ACL tear suffered in February, and despite this injury was still ranked as the 83rd best overall prospect by the All-Star Girls Report. Per Brett McCormick of All-Star, "She can score, she can pass — whatever you need her to do, she can do. She's a very fundamental and cerebral type of player. I think Mitchell has kind of changed his philosophy a little bit. He's recruiting more skilled — what I call basketball players. They have that IQ and they understand how to play the game. They're not just athletes." Morgan is the first women's basketball player from Allen County-Scottsville in history to play for Kentucky.
Last but not least, enjoy a tiny sneak peak at the 2016 Cats with 6' Sophomore Makenzie Cann. A top talent from Lawrenceburg, Makenzie spent her freshman year with Cincinnati before transferring closer to home. During her time with the Bearcats, Makenzie became their fourth best shooter, averaging 7 ppg. Makenzie will sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules.
This incoming class has height, which we truly need if we wish to successfully battle powerhouses like UConn, Louisville and Tennessee, as well as recent up and comers South Carolina and LSU. It also brings speed and shooting, both of which are critical to the success of Michell's "40 Minutes of Dread". But most importantly, this class brings Kentucky some desperately needed depth: injuries plagued the Cats last year, starting from before Big Blue Madness and lasting through the final horn against Dayton. Let's all hope the Injury Fairy has found a new squad to pick on...the Cats are due for a break!
Blending +60% new talent into your team is a familiar challenge for John Calipari, but a new one for Matthew Mitchell. That said, Mitchell has no better mind to consult with than his fellow Wildcat coach on how to bring a team together. I look forward to seeing the skills these shiny new Wildcats will bring to Memorial this year!
Next up, the conclusion of this series, in which we'll review our veteran Wildcats, and speculate on the season to come.
*Head coach Matthew Mitchell announced that Crishae Rowe has been dismissed from the program for failing to live up to the program's standards.