By LARRY VAUGHT
With all the recent turmoil that has hit the Kentucky women’s basketball program, it reminded me of a conversation I had with assistant coach Camryn Whitaker before UK played Washington in the NCAA Tournament.
She was a standout player at Harrison County High School and then Western Kentucky University. She joined the UK program just over a year ago and I wondered what a year with coach Matthew Mitchell had been like.
“It has been great. He is so energetic. Our team really feeds off that and I know I do. I have learned so much from him. He knows how to win and that has been really exciting for me,” said Whitaker.
Winning next year, though, could be a lot, lot harder than what it has been because of both player and coach defections. As of today, Kentucky will have just eight scholarship players next season. That includes some top talent — seniors Evelyn Akhator and Makayla Epps along with sophomore Maci Morris and Taylor Murray.
Kentucky will have just one freshman — Chanin Scott — after Indianapolis standout Lindsay Corsaro, a McDonald’s All-American, was released from her scholarship Tuesday. A few days earlier commit Madison Treece, the 30th ranked player nationally in the 2017 recruiting class, reopened her recruitment.
Corsaro had agreed to an interview with me Monday night about her upcoming UK career but called it off because “UK coaches wanted her to wait until she got to campus.” When news came that she was being released from her scholarship by UK Tuesday, I contacted her again via email to see if she would talk.
“I’m sorry this has been very difficult and tonight probably is not good timing,” she replied.
That was a sentiment I totally understood. Her father told the Indianapolis Star that she was not ruling out UK but the uncertainty with the program made her decide to re-evaluate her options.
Sophomore Batouly Camara did more than that. After starting 14 games last season, she has opted to transfer. Remember, she had picked UK over UConn and was a top 10 recruit in some rankings.
Mitchell has also had one coach resign and another not rehired in the last few days. On Tuesday, Lexington Herald Leader beat reporter Jen Smith reported that former UK assistant Kyra Elzy would rejoin the team as associate head coach.
Have questions? Who doesn’t?
Mitchell has scheduled a press conference for 1:30 p.m. today. No word on whether it is mainly to announce Elzy’s return, but the coach has to know he’ll get a ton of questions about his program — and should. What answers will he give? I have no idea.
Speculation has been rampant. Many have wondered if players cannot get along with Mitchell. That reminded me of a question I asked Morris during the NCAA Tournament about if her father’s coaching/prodding had helped prepare her to play for Mitchell.
“My dad has definitely prepared me for how coach Mitchell has got on to me sometimes. I was joking with some of the coaches one day because coach Mitchell got on to me pretty hard and they wanted to know if I was okay. I said, ‘I am fine. This is nothing compared to how my dad will be,'” Morris said.
So maybe today we will get an explanation about the dysfunction in a program that has continued to win or maybe we will still have as many questions after the press conference as we do now.