Most Recent Posts
- DeCourcy says Julius Randle is “so freaking quick” and powerful he will be special
- UK football coach Mark Stoops on wife: “She gets involved as much as she can in a supportive role”
- Swiss Cat – Vacation notes and photos from Larry from his trip to Switzerland.
- Kentucky softball team earns 40th win to tie school record for most wins in a season
- Calipari says Cats will press more, foul more, bump and grind, hip-check next season
- Caldwell County sophomore Elijah Sindelar special QB but also has big-time baseball options
- Stoops believes he has special understanding of high school coaches
- Video: UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown talks about working with head coach Mark Stoops
1. When will the SEC Network launch?
The Network will launch in August 2014.
2. What will the Network be called?
The Network will be called the “SEC Network.” The formal name is the “SEC ESPN Network.”
3. How is this different than other conference or single-school networks?
This collaboration between the SEC and ESPN will bring together unparalleled content from one of the most competitive conferences in the country with the highest quality, most innovative production partner in the sports industry.
4. Will the Network look similar to ESPN channels?
The Network will have the highest quality production value and a look and feel consistent with ESPN’s other networks.
5. Where will the Network be located?
The production home will be in Charlotte, N.C. This location will provide for efficient use of ESPN’s existing production facility in Charlotte and it will have support from all of ESPN’s resources in Bristol, Conn.
6. Why is Charlotte the Network’s home especially since there are no SEC teams in N.C.?
ESPN already have a state-of-the-art facility in Charlotte that is easily accessible from across the SEC footprint.
7. Will each campus (or the SEC Offices) have upgraded television facilities?
Each campus is being assessed for its capabilities and level of content integration from each of the school campuses. We anticipate some level of connection and integration with each institution’s facilities so we can produce and deliver content in an efficient manner.
8. How many people will work for the SEC Network?
We anticipate more than 100 full-time staff for the Network across ESPN.
PROGRAMMING & CONTENT
9. Will the SEC Network be 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
The SEC Network will have 24/7 programming; it’s a dedicated channel for all things SEC.
10. What kind of shows will I see on the SEC Network?
At the outset, the Network will offer SEC sports and sports-related studio programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More than 1,000 live events will be available in the first full year across the television Network and its digital extensions. This will include approximately 45 football games, more than 100 men’s basketball games, 60 women’s basketball games and events from across all 21 SEC-sponsored sports.
11. How will the SEC Network enhance the SEC fan experience?
More than 1,000 live events will be available. The SEC Network will provide more than 450 live games each year. An additional 550 games will be distributed digitally. The Network will bring football, basketball, baseball, and all SEC campus sports to SEC fans. These outlets will provide more in-depth content to fans across the country than ever before. Fans will be able to access content on a range of devices. Also, there will be programming dedicated to news and analysis surrounding the events.
12. How many football games will be aired on the Network?
The Network will televise approximately 45 football games per season.
13. How many basketball games? Baseball? Women’s sports? Olympic?
At least 450 events will be televised on the Network each year. Of the 450 events, there will be more than 100 men’s basketball games, 60 women’s basketball games and 250 Olympic sports on the Network. More than 550 additional sporting events will be available on our digital platforms. The digital platform will include an outlet, similar to ESPN3, for the other 550 games and a live linear stream of the television network. This content will be available to Network subscribers across a range of devices.
14. Will each school have a block of time to program as they see fit?
This is a conference-wide network. The goal is to provide equitable exposure for each of the SEC member institutions. The Network will achieve this goal without each school having its own block of time to program.
15. Will the Network show breaking news or investigative pieces about the conference similar to ESPN?
The Network will cover and report on sports news and information in an objective manner, but the basic premise is the Network will represent the conference and its member institutions. The Network has created a Content Board which has equal representation from the SEC and ESPN. The Board will work collaboratively on the programming and presentation. The Network, along with its digital extensions, will serve SEC sports fans and sports fans more broadly.
16. Will there be academic programming?
We have 16 months between now and the launch. We will continue to build out the full scope of the Network which will include content beyond live events. The Content Board will continue to build out the programming schedule for the Network and its digital extensions.
17. What access and programming is each school obligated to provide to the SEC Network?
Outside of the rights in the existing CBS and ESPN agreements, each school provides the rights and access to all other live events for the SEC Network.
18. Will the SEC Network air high school football games?
19. Will the SEC Network be able to re-air games shown on other ESPN networks? CBS?
20. Will the conference staff be on air or have any regular shows?
21. Will the SEC Network air bowl games? SEC Conference Championships?
There are no current plans to air bowl games on the Network. The Network will televise the SEC Championships for all sports other than football.
22. Will there be fewer games available to me now that there is a Network?
The Network will provide more than 1,000 live events per year for SEC fans and sports fans across the country. These games will also be available online on a range of devices to allow for widespread access that is not currently available.
23. Will the Network include new personalities or use existing ESPN personalities for the games and studio shows?
A mix of both existing ESPN personnel and new on-air staff will be present on the Network.
DISTRIBUTION / AVAILABILITY/ AD SALES
24. How can I get the SEC Network in time for the August 2014 launch?
An agreement is already in place with AT&T U-verse to distribute the Network. ESPN is working hard to ensure that the Network will be available via cable, satellite and telco distributors (such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, Cox and Verizon FiOS). ESPN will continue negotiating with the other distributors in the coming months. Your cable, satellite, or telco provider makes programming decisions based on customer requests. As a fan of the Southeastern Conference, please support the SEC Network by calling your cable, satellite or telco provider and requesting the SEC Network.
25. Are there currently any carriage agreements?
Yes. An agreement is already done with AT&T U-verse, the fastest growing multi-channel distributor in the country.
26. How do I get the digital part of the Network?
Provided you are a customer who receives the Network from your cable, satellite or telco provider, you can contact that provider and get a username and password which will allow you to access the content on computers, tablets, mobile phones and other consumer devices like Xbox.
27. What is the best way for fans and alumni who want to make sure their cable company carries the Network?
Please visit www.GetSECNetwork.com to show your interest in the Network and provide some general contact information.
28. What’s the expected reach of the Network outside the SEC footprint and on what level of service will distributors carry the Network (Expanded basic? Tier?)
The Network will have strong appeal and interest beyond the 11-state SEC footprint. While this is all subject to negotiation, carriage will be sought on broadly distributed packages.
29. Will I be able to watch the Network on my mobile phone or similar device?
Yes. The SEC Network will be available on computers, tablets, mobile phones and other consumer devices like Xbox to fans who receive their video subscription through an affiliated provider. The aim is to make this content available to fans anytime, anywhere, similar to how the WatchESPN application works today.
30. Will I be able to watch the Network on a device other than my TV (online? tablet)
Provided you are a subscriber of an affiliated provider (a cable, satellite or telco partner), you will be able to access the content with your existing login credentials, which will allow you to access the content on computers, tablets, mobile phones and other devices like Xbox.
31. How will you decide what games to televise early in the Network’s existence?
The SEC has great depth in all major sports so the Network will have top-tier matchups each week to serve viewers and those distributors that choose to carry the network.
32. Can I pay to subscribe to the network online, Pay-Per-View or via ESPN3 if I can’t get it on TV?
No. The games will be exclusive to the Network and its digital extensions. However, once a subscriber has access to the Network via an affiliated provider, that subscriber will have access to the content on computers, tablets, mobile phones and other consumer devices like Xbox. The aim is to make this content available to fans anytime, anywhere.
33. How will this impact my cable bill?
ESPN negotiates for license fee payments from its distributors and has no control over retail pricing. Retail prices are determined by each distributor.
34. Will all SEC campuses carry the network?
Campuses served by an affiliated provider will have access to the Network.
35. I live in [state outside SEC footprint]. Are you working to make sure we are able to see the Network too?
Yes. Our interest is in delivering this content in broadly distributed packages across the country.
36. Right now, I see all my favorite team’s games online at the [SEC school athletics] site. Will I still be able to see all those games?
The Network is for media rights to all sports across our 14 member institutions. Any games produced by the schools will have an outlet, either the SEC Network or its digital extensions, where fans can watch.
37. Who will sell sponsorship for the Network?
ESPN will sell advertising and sponsorship on behalf of the Network. ESPN will also represent the SEC’s Corporate Sponsor Program.
38. Where can I apply for a job at SEC Network?
You can apply online at ESPNcareers.com. Job openings for the SEC Network positions will be posted in late Spring 2014.
39. Will the Network have an internship program?
ESPN has a SEC internship program already in place. The Network will source candidates from the existing process and pool. Information about where to apply is forthcoming.
40. How will money from the Network be used on campuses?
Each member institution has control and discretion on how they use any proceeds from their media rights.
By UK Media Relations
Former Women’s National Basketball Association assistant coach Jeff House has been hired as an assistant coach for the University of Kentucky women’s basketball program, UK head coach Matthew Mitchell announced Wednesday. House comes to Kentucky after spending 10 years in the professional ranks, including the last two seasons with the WNBA’s Chicago Sky. During his 27-year career path, he has coached 19 WNBA All-Stars and major award winners along with four Olympians.
“I am excited that Jeff House is joining our staff at Kentucky,” Mitchell said. “He and I share a vision for this program that is based on the principles of honesty, hard work and discipline. He, his wife Ann and children Elizabeth and Tom are a wonderful family and we are proud that they now become part of our UK Hoops family. His years of experience at the highest levels of professional and college basketball will benefit the growth of our program greatly. I am thrilled that Jeff is a Kentucky Wildcat.”
“In the basketball world there are a handful of really special places and Kentucky is on the tip of everyone’s tongue when people talk about special places to coach or play,” House said. “It’s thrilling and humbling to be on a campus like this and at a university like this. I’m looking forward to working with this amazing staff, our student-athletes and being a part of the Big Blue Nation.”
After seven seasons with the New York Liberty and one year as the top assistant coach with the Washington Mystics, House joined the college ranks serving as the recruiting coordinator and assistant coach at Virginia under Debbie Ryan from 2005-2009. As the program’s recruiting coordinator his recruiting classes were No. 10 (2008), No. 3 (2009) and No. 14 (2010) nationally by multiple national services, including Blue Star Report, All-Star Girl’s Report and Collegiate Girl’s Basketball Report. House recruited and helped develop Monica Wright, who was chosen by the Minnesota Lynx as the second overall pick in the 2010 WNBA Draft. He also played a role in recruiting 2009 WNBA draft picks Aisha Mohammed (Minnesota) and Lyndra Littles (Connecticut) and 2008 draft pick Sharnee Zoll (Los Angeles Sparks).
With the New York Liberty, House was instrumental in the team’s 1999, 2000 and 2002 WNBA Eastern Conference Championship titles. Under his tutelage the Liberty made four appearances in the Eastern Conference Championship series, three appearances in the WNBA Finals and he coached in three WNBA All-Star games. House initially joined the Liberty in 1998 as the video coordinator and advance scout after spending the 1997-98 season as a member of the New York Knicks video staff.
“Being in the WNBA I was able to see what Coach Mitchell has done for Kentucky,” House said. “I came to practice here a few years ago to evaluate Victoria Dunlap and other players, and to see him take this program from where it was to now have it knocking on the door of being a national champion is really, really special. For me and my family to now be a small part of it is even more special.”
House played basketball at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y., before suffering a career-ending injury. He immediately jumped into the coaching realm, beginning his coaching career at McQuaid Jesuit High School also in Rochester while he was an undergraduate. At McQuaid, he served as an assistant to former Knicks and Houston Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy in 1985. In 1986, House was a key component to McQuaid’s run to the Class B, Section 5 New York State Championship.
House spent tadecade honing his skills as an assistant men’s coach, including four seasons (1988-91) at the University of Lowell as an assistant to former Miami Heat and Orlando Magic head coach and current ESPN analyst Stan Van Gundy. He also spent two seasons at Jacksonville University as an assistant coach with Matt Kilcullen and following the receipt of his master’s degree, four seasons (1992-96) as an assistant coach at Rutgers University during its transition into the Big East Conference with Bob Wenzel. While at Rutgers, House served as head coach for the 1995 People-to-People Sports Holland All-Star Tour. He directed a combination of Big East, Atlantic 10 and Big Ten All-Stars to a 6-1 record, losing only to Holland’s national champions.
House, 47, has been a member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches for 26 years and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association for the last 15 years. He currently serves as president and on-court director of House’s HOOP Headquarters, a basketball skills and development company he created in 1996. In 2009, House also founded AllBasketballReview.com, a coaching, player and parent resource for all aspects of basketball development.
House has always been an active member in the community. From 2001-09, he helped executive director Ben D’Alessadro run a Virginia 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the Virginia Basketball Academy, whose mission is to build character and shape lives through the game of basketball. The organization services over 1,000 boys and girls year-round in the Charlottesville area, providing skill and character development through a wide range of programming. In 2010, House helped establish the Junior Basketball League a boys and girls league for grades 1-4, as well as the Virginia Developmental Basketball League for boys and girls in grades 5-8. These leagues currently have nearly 80 teams participating.
While in New York, House worked closely with the Cheering For Children Foundation and The After School Corporation. He has also served as a regional presenter and coaching instructor for the New Jersey Special Olympics. House participated with the WNBA Read to Achieve program and the Junior WNBA/NBA coaching clinics and is a frequent speaker and volunteer for numerous charitable functions.
House and his wife Ann Leonard-House, the former head women’s volleyball coach at UMass-Lowell and Rutgers, have two children – daughter Elizabeth and son Thomas.
If you haven’t seen this skit performed at UK’s Catspys last night, it’s a must-see. Many thanks to KSTV for providing this video.
By GARY GRAVES, AP Sports Writer
A’dia Mathies didn’t start thinking about the WNBA until her Kentucky career began winding down. And when her Wildcats playing days ended, she didn’t dare think about what team might draft her.
Well, Mathies’ dream came true Monday night when the Los Angeles Sparks chose her with the 10th overall pick. The 5-foot-9 Louisville native joins a team that reached the Western Conference finals last year, led by all-WNBA forward and 2008 Most Valuable Player Candace Parker. With her ability to score, handle the ball and defensive prowess — skills that earned Mathies consecutive Southeastern Conference player of the year awards — she is Kentucky’s highest WNBA draft pick ever.
Mathies becomes Kentucky’s second first-rounder in the past three years, following Victoria Dunlap’s No. 11 selection in 2011.
“When you’re younger, you always write down, ‘I want to go to the WNBA,’ but when you get older you kind of forget about it,” Mathies said Tuesday of her thought process. “At least, I did. Just coming here to see how close I am to the opportunity and then seeing players that I played against in the WNBA, I feel like I can be there. I’m just glad I got selected, and I’m ready to work.”
Mathies heads to a Sparks team she said usually thought of when pondering the next level. But the uncertainty of when she’d be selected and by whom left her with an open mind as she and her family watched the draft unfold at her grandmother’s house.
Projected as an early second-round choice by some draft sites, Mathies grew more anxious late in the first round before excitement took over when her name was announced. Going to L.A. and reuniting with her brother there made it even better.
“Once they got up into (picks) seven, eight, nine, my heart starting beating fast on every single pick they was calling,” she said. “I’m just excited to get picked by L.A. … When you think about the WNBA, you automatically think of the Sparks. Just to be going there, my brother lives there, I miss him and am just very excited right now.”
Mathies is just a few weeks removed from finishing her Kentucky career as one of the Wildcats’ greatest players. Second all-time in women’s scoring with 2,014 points, she’s one of just five Wildcats to break 2,000 at Kentucky. Only Valerie Still (2,763), Hall of Famer Dan Issel (2,138), Kenny Walker (2,080) and Jack Givens (2,038) have scored more.
Mathies ranks in the top 10 on 13 lists, including No. 1 with 140 games played, 139 starts and 320 steals. This past season she led Kentucky in scoring (16.1 points per game), 3-pointers (73) and a .422 percentage from long range while ranking second in steals and assists.
Now comes the next phase of raising her game to get minutes on a Sparks roster boasting a strong, deep backcourt in all-WNBA second teamer Kristi Toliver, Alana Beard and Lindsey Harding.
Kentucky assistant athletic director Ukari Figgs believes that’s just a matter of Mathies continuing to show her versatility.
“I think A’dia’s going to be somebody that can come in and do a little bit of everything,” said Figgs, who helped the Sparks win the 2001 championship during a five-year WNBA career. “That’s what makes her special. Playing professional basketball, you have to be pretty versatile to make an 11-player roster. She can back up the point guard, she shoots well enough to play the 2 guard position and defensively she can guard an array of guards on the perimeter. She puts herself in a good position to be able do a little bit of everything.”
Not only that, Mathies must display her talents pretty quickly. Right after graduation on May 5 she heads west for the opening of training camp; Los Angeles begins the regular season May 26 against Seattle. It will be a whirlwind for sure, but with a track record of making plans come together in a hurry, Mathies is confident of following through on her dream.
“I think I can definitely help, especially playing for UK and the way we play up-tempo,” she said. “I think I can be a great asset to the team and really help them out a lot. … Right now, I’m on cloud nine.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Angela Mattingly says her daughter, Miss Basketball Makayla Epps of Marion County, enjoyed everything about the McDonald’s All-American Game. Epps, a Kentucky signee, had 13 points in the game.
“She is an amazing player,” said McDonald’s All-American Linnae Harper, another UK signee. “I can’t wait to play with her next year.”
Epps enjoyed mingling with the other great players from across the nation — as did her two brothers.
Epps and her mom shared a few photos with vaughtsviews.com for readers/UK fans to also enjoy.
By LARRY VAUGHT
CHICAGO — As she was growing up, Makayla Epps says her father was both hard and loving when it came to basketball.
“He lets me be me and don’t force me to do nothing I don’t want to do. He supports me, but as a coach he gets in me a little bit,” said the Marion County senior.
Sh played in the McDonald’s All-American Game Wednesday night at the United Center and her father, former Kentucky standout Anthony Epps, was among those here to watch her. She had 13 points (5-for-8), three rebounds and one assist in 15 minutes for the losing East team.
“This is all about fun and showing what you can bring to the table for your college team,” said Epps, a Kentucky signee, after the game. “I scored 13 points, and I am real happy about that. I was nervous at first. I didn’t want to look like I didn’t deserve to be here, but I did well against some of the best players in the country.”
Her only problem came when her father, who was sitting behind the bench, yelled a few times wondering why she was not in the game. She said he didn’t under the game’s substitution rules.
Like her, he led Marion County to a state championship. He then played on a national championship team at UK, something Makayla Epps also hopes she can do.
“I have never seen full clips of games with or 1996 team’s games. I have been on YouTube and seen short clips of certain big games and big shots or them winning the championship, but not actual games with him,” she said. “People tell me he was one of the best point guards ever to come through Kentucky and he led them to the 1996 title and without him it might not have happened because he was the floor general on the floor and stuff like that.”
Anthony Epps is now an assistant coach on the Marion girls team under Trent Milby and was part of Marion’s perfect season that culminated with the state championship.
“I think she is a little bit more of a scorer than Anthony was (in high school). I think she will score more in college than Anthony did. I tell her all the time she is better in high school than Anthony was and going to the McDonald’s All-American Game proves that. But IQ-wise on the basketball court, they are both very, very smart,” Milby said.
Marion High School principal Stacey Hall says Makayla Epps is now the bigger name in the county because of the career she had that produced over 3,300 points.
“Anthony is a great guy and I have a lot of respect for Anthony. It built up and built up, but now Makayla is the bigger name. When she switched (her verbal commitment) from Louisville to UK, she sort of replaced him. Everybody knows coach Epps, but more follow Makayla now and what she does,” Hall said. “Like he said, he is now known as Makayla’s father because she has become such a great person and player.”
Makayla Epps says fans tell her “all the time I am a lot like him” when they talk about her play compared to her father’s style.
“He could see the floor and I see the floor great. He can shoot better than me, but I can shoot a little bit. We are so similar on the court that people say it is crazy,” she said. “We are both very competitive. He is a winner. Got (championship) in high school, got (championship) in college. Now I got one in high school and hope to get one in college. I have been competing with boys since I was younger. That drives me. If I can do it against the boys, I can do it against the girls. So the competitiveness has always been there in me just like it was him.”
She was born while her father was playing at Kentucky and he carried her in his arms at midcourt on his Senior Day.
“She had on a little cheerleader outfit then, but to see her grow into the young lady that she is now. She is so humble. She just makes me proud and her mom is as proud, too,” Anthony Epps said.
“People see me in that cheerleading outfit and say I would not be an athlete. Being out there with Dad was kind of like a foreshadowing because now I will play at Rupp, too,” she said.
Her father admits it was not easy having a child in college for him or her.
“Everybody is going to have their ups and downs as a parent and being in college and raising a daughter makes it even harder. I tried to do the best I could,” he said. “I am not going to say I was a perfect father because I wasn’t. No matter anything I ever done, she knows that I love her and it don’t matter what no one else says. She lives with her mom, but she knows I love her and will always be her father. You can’t take that bond away that we have.”
That was never more clear to him than when he lost his job as Marion head boys coach because of a DUI arrest.
“It was very difficult for me because of the way people talk. You have to stay humble and keep believing in who you are, and that’s what I did,” Anthony Epps said. “But when I went through that trying time and got the DUI and I knew it hurt me, but it hurt my kids more. That really got me down, but to get a text from her telling me that she still loved me and all that and always would be there for me. That meant more to me than anybody out there can say.
“My kids didn’t get down on me and looked at me as the same as before. I made a mistake. Mistakes happen. I made it, grew from it and I am moving on with my life and glad to have her and my other kids backing me up. She’ll never know what that meant to me.”
She’s not worried about trying to match her father’s exploits and/or name at Kentucky.
“It is a male-female thing. Dad was 20 years ago and now I am the present. Not as much pressure. I am going to go up there and hopefully keep the name to where it needs to be. Wearing his number (at UK) means a lot to me and him both, but I don’t think there is a lot of pressure. I am going to go in there and handle it,” Makayla Epps said.
“The humbleness is what he always talks about. He says stay humble and it will serve you in the long run. Just his on court personality and off court personality was that way. Don’t try to draw too much attention to yourself. Just stay calm and humble about everything. He made sure I knew that.”
She’s quickly realized since Marion ended its unbeaten season with the state title what kind of presence she has with youngsters.
“Being at the state (tournament) games kids came up to me asking to take pictures and autographs and stuff. That goes to show I am a huge role model to other kids not even from Marion County,” Makayla Epps said. “Then we did an autograph signing (in Lebanon) and kids were running up and asking for autographs and pictures. That means a lot. Kids are always tweeting me and texting me and telling me I am their role model and they want to be like me and how can they be like me. It all means a lot to me.
“That’s why it was important to play well here. I didn’t want to feel like I let anybody down with how I did because I knew everybody back home would be watching and pulling for me.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
CHICAGO — After she failed to make the USA Basketball tryout roster, Marion County’s Makayla Epps figured she had no chance to be a McDonald’s All-American.
“I thought maybe I just wasn’t good enough and when I did get picked, it meant so much to me. Knowing I get this opportunity means the world to me,” said Epps.
She’s here now to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game Wednesday (7 p.m. on ESPNU) at the United Center.
“I know a lot of the players. I have seen them in AAU tournaments and their names are real big out there,” Epps said. “You have players on North Carolina, Duke and Notre Dame. I am going to be out there with the best of the best. It is exciting.
“Just the game itself at the United Center is special. Derrick Rose (of the Chicago Bulls) is my favorite player, so I will be out there playing where he played at. Then going to the Ronald McDonald House was a great thing to do, too.”
Epps, a 5-10 point guard led Marion to a perfect 39-0 record and Marion’s first state tournament title in eight appearances. Epps averaged a team-high 23.0 points, 5.5 assists, 4.3 steals and 5.5 rebounds per game. She also was named the Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year and is a three-time All-State honoree who scored over 3,300 points in her prep career. She was also named Kentucky’s Miss Basketball.
“She is a true leader. She is one of those students that crosses all sub-groups in the school. It is not like she is just strictly an athlete or in that clique. All the kids know Makayla and she has relationships with all the kids,” Marion High School principal Stacey Hall, a former high school coach, said.
“It does not matter who they are. She is that one student if you know there is something going on and you just talk to Makayla, she will help you out to either solve the problem, stop the problem or give you information that will help us get to the root of the problem. She is one of those people who is going to be sorely missed from the standpoint of leaderships. She goes all the way across the board to kids who look up to her and she is friends with them.”
Marion hung a banner in the gym recognizing her being the school’s first McDonald’s All-American during a sendoff ceremony to Chicago for her last week.
“I have learned in seven years that Marion County has a very supportive fan base and great history. It just solidifies the legacy she has here and one-upping her dad (Anthony Epps) and getting out of his shadow and the great player and competitor he was by being part of the McDonald’s game,” Hall said. “As long as this school stands, she will always be the talk of this community along with this team. We are seeing history being made with her.”
Her father also helped Marion win a state title and was a starter on Kentucky’s 1996 national championship team. His daughter, who originally gave a verbal commitment to Louisville, signed with the Wildcats in November.
“She is laid back. I really truly believe she would rather be at Panama City Beach (Fla.) with her friends and enjoying the beach, but I think once she realizes being with these other great players and doing all these events they have planned let’s her see what being a McDonald’s All-American is all about,” Anthony Epps, one of many Marion fans expected her for Wednesday night’s game, said. “To be in history with some of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball is really special and that will eventually sink in for her.”
Marion head coach Trent Milby believes his star understands the value of being in this game.
“She loves basketball, so she knows who has played in McDonald’s games. She is very smart IQ-wise about the game,” Milby said. “She is a big deal in Marion County already. She won a state championship. They know she is good and probably the best this county has ever seen or will and they are proud of that.”
Hall expects a lot of Marion fans who can’t come to Chicago will be watching the game on ESPN to support Epps.
“Not only the kids in the high school, but the smaller kids, the teachers across the district. She has connections with all of them. Everybody will watch to show their support,” Hall said. “Of all the players I have ever seen, she is one of the best. She is the best girls player I have ever seen and I would put her up against any guy that I have seen, and I’ve seen a lot of good ones. She is just special. She knows how to play the game and she has got better in the seven years I have known her every year. She’ll do great in this game.”
Anthony Epps appreciates all the good things in Marion and across the state have said about his daughter.
“The highest compliment you can get as a parent is to have people tell you she is a sweet daughter and she is this and she is that outside of basketball,” Anthony Epps said. “People come up to me all the time saying that. A lot of people who have not seen her ask me what type person she is and I tell them once you meet her, I will let you make your own judgment.
“But to me she is a wonderful young lady and I can’t ask for a better child. She is an excellent role model for her younger siblings as well because they look up to her and really love her. It’s truly a blessing to have a daughter like her and I am so proud she’s playing in this game.”
So is Milby, who says 10 years from now he’ll still recall how special she was.
“I will always remember how good she was, how skilled she was and how good she was in the open floor,” Milby said. “She is so strong that people just bounce off her. In 10 years she will still be the best guard Kentucky has ever seen. All I had to do was just give her the ball. You never had to worry about getting the ball up the floor.”
He’ll also remember how she interacted with teammates despite the numerous accolades she received.
“They all respected each other. Makayla knows she needed those others to do what she is doing. She was one of them. The chemistry was great. They could care less about points, steals and rebounds. They just went out there to win and she was one of them all the way,” Milby said.
AP Basketball Writer
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut is headed back to a familiar place – the Final Four.
Breanna Stewart scored 21 points and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 17 to help top-seed UConn rout Kentucky 83-53 on Monday night and advance to a record sixth-straight national semifinal.
The Huskies will face either Notre Dame or Duke in the national semifinals on Sunday in New Orleans. The Irish and Blue Devils play Tuesday night. UConn (33-4) broke a tie with Stanford (2008-12), LSU (2004-08) and itself (2000-04) by reaching the Final Four again.
It was the second straight season that UConn beat Kentucky in the regional finals. The Huskies topped the Wildcats by 15 last year 105 miles to the north of Bridgeport in Kingston, R.I.
This game wasn’t as close. Kentucky stayed close for the first 10 minutes with their “40 minutes of dread” defense. Then UConn turned up its own defensive intensity.
The Huskies trailed 23-22 with just 9 minutes left in the first half. That’s when Stewart – honored as the outstanding player of the Bridgeport Regional – and UConn’s “no-name” defense took over allowing three points the rest of the half. Kentucky missed 13 of its final 14 shots in the half with the only make coming when Jelleah Sidney banked in a 3-pointer from the wing.
While UConn was playing lockdown defense, Stewart was dominating on the offensive end. The 6-foot-4 star, who was the national high school player of the year last season, scored nine points and had a vicious two-handed block during that closing run.
After Sidney’s 3-pointer, Stewart calmly converted a three-point play on the other end. UConn led 48-26 at the half.
Kentucky couldn’t get within 20 in the second half.
The loudest cheer of the night from the sellout crowd of nearly 8,600 came when the video board showed highlights of Louisville’s upset victory over Baylor on Sunday night.
UConn’s only losses this season came to Baylor and three times to Notre Dame.
Stewart didn’t play well in most of those losses, but really has stepped her game up over the past few weeks. After struggling through the middle part of the season, the heralded first-year has averaged 16.4 points since the start of the Big East tournament.
It’s been an unusual season for UConn, which for the first time in 19 years didn’t win either the Big East regular season or tournament title. Now the Huskies are two wins away from an eighth national championship.
This was the 19th time in the past 23 seasons that UConn had reached the regional final. They have made the Final Four 14 times overall, including the last six.
None of the regional final games during this current run have been close with only Rutgers coming within 10 in 2008. UConn’s lead ballooned to 36 points in the second half of this game. When the final buzzer sounded Mosqueda-Lewis jumped into the arms of Stewart to celebrate.
Coach Geno Auriemma got a gritty effort out of junior center Stefanie Dolson, who has a stress fracture in her right ankle and an injured left foot as well. She wore a brace on her left leg and a compression sock on her right one. While she only scored two points, she had 11 rebounds and four assists.
The loss brought to a close a record year for the Wildcats (30-5). Kentucky had the most victories in school history. Not bad for a school rich in basketball tradition on the men’s side. Still coach Matthew Mitchell was left searching for the school’s first trip to the Final Four.
The Wildcats have made the NCAA tournament in each of the past four seasons and reached the regional finals in three of those years falling short each time.
Senior A’dia Mathies, the two-time SEC player of the year, had a quiet game scoring only 14 points with 11 of them coming in the second half. Kastine Evans, who hit the big 3-pointer to help beat Delaware in the regional semifinals had just two points on 1 of 9 shooting. Her older brother R.J., who played on the UConn’s men’s basketball team this season, sat behind the Wildcats bench in a Kentucky shirt.
The Huskies have won 43 of their past 44 NCAA games in the state of Connecticut, including going 9-1 in Bridgeport. The lone blemish came against Duke in 2006 in the regional final.
UCONN 83, KENTUCKY 53
KENTUCKY (30-6): O’Neill 5-12 2-3 13, Mathies 4-9 4-6 14, Stallworth 4-12 1-2 9, Walker 0-1 2-2 2, Evans 1-9 0-0 2, Thompson 1-5 0-0 2, Pinkett 0-1 0-0 0, Sidney 2-5 0-0 5, Goss 2-8 2-2 6, Henderson 0-0 0-0 0, Bishop 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-62 11-15 53.
UCONN (33-4): Doty 1-1 0-0 3, Mosqueda-Lewis 6-11 2-3 17, Stewart 8-14 5-6 21, Dolson 1-4 0-0 2, Faris 3-4 6-6 12, Tuck 1-3 4-4 6, Jefferson 5-7 0-0 10, Hartley 3-10 4-4 10, Buck 0-1 0-0 0, Stokes 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 29-56 21-23 83.
Halftime_UConn 48-26. 3-Point Goals_Kentucky 4-16 (Mathies 2-3, Sidney 1-3, O’Neill 1-4, Stallworth 0-1, Thompson 0-1, Goss 0-2, Evans 0-2), UConn 4-11 (Mosqueda-Lewis 3-6, Doty 1-1, Tuck 0-1, Stewart 0-1, Hartley 0-2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Kentucky 33 (Stallworth 8), UConn 41 (Dolson 11). Assists_Kentucky 9 (Evans 3), UConn 12 (Dolson 4). Total Fouls_Kentucky 20, UConn 18. A_8,594.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
By DOUG FEINBERG, AP Basketball Writer
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Matthew Mitchell is trying to build Kentucky into a women’s basketball power. Getting to the Final Four for the first time will be a huge step in reaching that goal. Mitchell’s team is one victory away, and Connecticut stands in the way for the second straight season. The two teams played last year and UConn came away with a 15-point victory. They’ll meet again tonight in the Bridgeport regional final.
“This program’s come a long way and made a tremendous amount of progress in last four years,” Mitchell said. “We want to be the best team in the country and that doesn’t happen by making one Final Four. One Final Four is an outstanding achievement and something we’re working hard to get to. It’s a huge step we’re 40 minutes away from.”
The Wildcats have made the NCAA tournament in each of the past four seasons and reached the regional finals in three of those years. The run has impressed UConn coach Geno Auriemma.
“Kentucky was one of those places where if they get the right coach they’ll be really good,” he said. “Any place that’s good in men’s basketball should be good in women’s basketball. (Matt’s) carved out his own style and I don’t know if anybody’s gotten that far that quickly and done a better job in the country than they have.”
Now they just need to take that next step. The Wildcats have been focused on the Final Four since they started practice. Hanging in front of their locker room in Kentucky is a picture of the Final Four logo with a clock next to it. Ever since the first day of practice back in early October, that clock has been counting down the days and minutes until the Final Four in New Orleans. The second-seeded Wildcats hope to be in Louisiana when the clock reaches zero.
Whether they advance or not, it’s already been a record year for the Wildcats (30-5). Kentucky has the most victories in school history. Not bad for a school rich in basketball tradition on the men’s side, winning its eighth national championship last season in New Orleans.
While the Wildcats are hoping for their first national semifinals appearance, the Huskies are trying to make the Final Four for a record sixth consecutive year. It’s been an unusual season for UConn, which for the first time in 19 years didn’t win either the Big East regular season or tournament title. Now the Huskies have a chance at another title — an eighth national championship.
“I’m hoping everybody realizes that this is literally the last opportunity,” UConn senior Kelly Faris said. “And I’m hoping everybody’s getting the sick feeling in their stomach from losing every time. We’ve just got to come together and play Connecticut basketball and listen to every single thing coach says because, obviously, he knows what he’s talking about. And if we listen to him, we’ll be all right.”
The Huskies (32-4) have won 42 of their past 43 NCAA games in the state of Connecticut, including going 8-1 in Bridgeport. The lone blemish came against Duke in 2006 in the regional final.
The loss to Connecticut last season is still fresh in the Wildcats’ minds.
“We saw it as a missed opportunity,” SEC player of the year A’dia Mathies said. “We were there in the first half and had a mental lapse for a couple four-minute segments. If we did a better job staying focused we would have gone to the Final Four. We know it could happen this year.”