By MIKE MARSEE, The Advocate-Messenger
Makayla Epps and Kyvin Goodin-Rogers have discovered they’re much more popular now that they’re going to Kentucky. Of course, popularity had nothing to do with the two Marion County stars’ decisions to decommit from Louisville, then commit and ultimately sign last month with Kentucky.
But since they completed their switch from red to blue, they have learned through personal and social media interactions something of what it means to be the object of Kentucky fans’ affection.
“There’s a lot of Kentucky fans out there and a lot of Louisville fans out there, but Kentucky fans, man, they just treat you like royalty,” Epps said. “Everybody knows that you’re going to Kentucky, and when somebody finds out that you’re going to Kentucky, they’ll let it be known that they know, They show you love, they show you support, they’ll come watch you play, they congratulate you on signing and all that.”
Goodin-Rogers said the biggest change she has seen in people since changing her mind has been on Twitter.
“Nothing’s changed, really, but my Twitter timeline, there’s always something new on there posted, and I never know what it’s going to be,” Goodin-Rogers said.
The two girls said some tweets come from supportive Kentucky fans, and some come from Louisville fans who are, well, less than supportive, saying things like:
— “Just the fact that coach Mitchell stole us,” Epps said with a chuckle.
— “And the stuff I’ve seen about how next year when we get there Louisville’s going to kill us,” Goodin-Rogers added. “How they said, ‘almost a bird but now a cat,’ or something like that.”
That remains to be seen, but no matter how those Kentucky-Louisville battles play out, Goodin-Rogers and Epps said they’re looking forward to getting to Lexington — after they take care of some unfinished business at Marion.
Their team made it all the way to the finals of the Girls Sweet Sixteen last season before suffering a heartbreaking four-point loss to duPont Manual in the state championship game. With five experienced starters leading a talent-rich team that was No. 1 in the Bluegrasspreps.com preseason rankings, they’re determined to do everything they can to seize the title that was within their reach last year.
“This team here, we’ve got a lot of experience. Our five starters all played in the state (finals) last year, and (coach Trent) Milby expects certain things from all five of us,” Epps said. “So we know what it takes to get there, and we know what it takes to win, so our goal is to go 39-0, undefeated, and get there, get back and win it.”
The two girls said they’re glad the recruiting process is behind them.
“Now that we’ve signed, that part’s over with so that’s no more stress. We know that’s where we’ll be at next year, and now we’re just trying to enjoy our senior season,” Epps said.
Both Epps, the daughter of former Kentucky star Anthony Epps, and Goodin-Rogers, the daughter of former Louisville star Tick Rogers, committed to Louisville in 2011, prior to their junior season. However, both girls decommitted in June 2012, and in August they made verbal commitments to Kentucky within about a week of each other. They signed during the early signing period last month, becoming part of a Kentucky recruiting class ranked in the top 10 nationally.
Epps, a 5-foot-11 guard, averaged a team-high 17.2 points and shot 49.7 percent from the field last season. Goodin-Rogers, a 6-1 forward, averaged 13.4 points and a team-best 9.1 rebounds.
Randy Salyers, the Casey County coach whose team has played Marion in three of the last four seasons, got a good look at both girls last week when the Knights defeated Casey 72-35 in Liberty, and he said both girls have improved since he last saw them at the state tournament.
“The biggest thing that those two kids have improved in the last two years, one is Epps has improved her outside shot, and I think what Goodin-Rogers did is improve her strength,” Salyers said. “Goodin-Rogers has been a decent outside shooter and a pretty smart kid, and she just needed to get stronger, and she’s done that. Now Epps, on the other side, was always a strong kid, and she sees the floor well, and she just needed that one thing, which is the outside shot, and she looks like she’s improved that.”