One of nation’s top forwards chooses Kentucky

A physical power forward with what one analyst called “a ceiling through the roof” committed to Kentucky after a recent visit.

Batouly Camara, rated as one of the top 25 players in the nation by multiple recruiting services, is a big get for UK in more ways than one.

“I really expect her to be a WNBA player when she graduates,” recruiting analyst Bret McCormick said of Camara, a 6-foot-2 power forward out of Blair Academy in New Jersey. “She’s great around the basket. Her ceiling is through the roof.”

Camara, whom McCormick’s All-Star Girls Report says is the second-rated power forward in the country, was one of 28 players in nation invited to the USA Basketball U18 National Team Trials.

Blair Academy’s web site listed Connecticut, Louisville, Princeton, Virginia, Northwestern and Michigan as schools interested in the 2015 prospect rated as the No. 21 player overall by ESPN.

McCormick, who first announced the commitment on Twitter, said Camara’s finalists likely were UK and the Huskies.

“She’s a different type player that Kentucky didn’t have and that’s why Connecticut wanted her, too,” he said of Camara, who averaged 11 points and 12 rebounds last season. “She’s 6-2, but she’s a big, strong, athletic kid.”

The analyst thinks she can make an immediate impact player for Matthew Mitchell’s Cats.

“She’s a sponge; she wants to work,” he said. “Whatever you tell her to do, she wants to do. She wants to get better every day. … She’s got a high motor. She works hard.”

Camara joins guards Maci Morris and Morgan Rich, two top 100 prospects, as the third commitment for 2015.

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New assistants competitive, even with each other

Kentucky’s assistants are as competitive in their offices and on the recruiting trail as Matthew Mitchell expects his players to be on the playing floor.

He thinks that bodes well for the future.

Their fire really attracted Mitchell to Adeniyi Amadou and Christian Stefanopoulos.

“I just needed some incredible competitive, aggressive energy in recruiting and they both had that,” he said, noting that they’re competitive (in a good way) with each other.

Stefanopoulos joked that they’ve started competing to see who will leave his or her office last each day.

“We complement each other really, really well,” Stefanopoulos said “I learn from him every day and that’s talking about things that we might disagree about, but when the conversation is over, we are on the same page. To me, that’s worth more than anything.”

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New assistant may give Cats international flair

Newest Kentucky assistant Adeniyi Amadou speaks five languages, including his native language French. His father was born in the western part of Africa.

He may play a big part in expanding UK’s recruiting base globally.

“At a place like Kentucky, you can feel that effect already on people even across seas, the success of the men’s program that helps a whole lot,” he said. “The resources are in place. Some of the top, top, top European players have the tendency to stay in Europe and sign professional. This is the right kind of school and if you have the right kind of people in place, you can really reach out to them.”

UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said his hope always is to have “every player on our team from the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” but he knows that’s not always possible and said he looks forward to expanding the Cats’ recruiting base.

“I haven’t had a real strong connection to players outside the country and so if that can help move us forward and help us become the best, I’m all ears listening,” the head coach said.

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Mitchell pledges $1 million to athletics department

Matthew Mitchell and his family live close enough to walk to places like Commonwealth Stadium and the renovated softball and soccer venues at Kentucky.

The coach and his wife wanted to see this place where they’ve laid down roots continue to grow, so they’ve decided to donate $1 million to Kentucky athletics.

“We wanted to be a very small part of what all they’re doing,” Mitchell told the Herald-Leader early Friday morning. “We just wanted to participate and show that we’re totally committed to all of the exciting things that are going on at UK right now.”

Mitchell pledged his donation, which will be spread out over 10 years, to Mitch Barnhart recently. The coach said it mostly will be used for capital projects, but he’s leaving that up to the athletic director’s discretion.

“The things that are going on facility wise for us and Commonwealth Stadium and all of the improvements that are on the way for football are so critical to every other program on campus that that program maximizing its financial effectiveness is crucial to all of us,” Mitchell explained.

UK is in the middle of a $120 million renovation at the football stadium and preparing to build a privately funded $45 million football practice facility nearby.

The Kentucky women’s basketball coach said he appreciates the chance that Barnhart took on him seven years ago and wanted to show that in a tangible way.

“In the coaching profession, you can live a real nomadic life, bounce around to different places, chasing a place like Kentucky,” Mitchell said. “The fact that we were able to land here at a pretty young age and put some roots down in this community and also the success we’ve had, we felt has all been a blessing.

“We just wanted to give a little bit back to the program that’s been so good to us.”

In a release from UK, Barnhart praised Mitchell’s selflessness.

“I want people to know and understand what special, special people Matthew and Jenna are to this community,” Barnhart said. “I’m very thankful for their generosity, team approach and long-term vision to this athletics department and this university.”

This isn’t Mitchell’s first big-ticket donation. When Kentucky extended his contract in 2012, the coach donated $100,000 of that money to scholarships on the academic side.

This season as part of the “We Back Pat” initiative, Mitchell donated more than $40,000 to the Pat Summitt foundation as it tries increase Alzheimer’s awareness.

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New mom, Ohio coach ‘riding on a high’

Forgive Ohio University Coach Jodi Hermanek if this NCAA Tournament trip — just the second in school history — is all a blur.

A little less than three weeks ago, Hermanek gave birth to her first child, Emma Fay Horton, who was at the Kentucky game and staying warm in the suite area with dad David Horton on Friday.

When asked how little sleep she’s getting, the Ohio coach smiled.

“It’s just not something I’ve been paying attention to, I’ve just been riding on a high,” said Hermanek, sporting a camouflage Ohio U baseball cap.

“These girls motivate and inspire me and my baby obviously is the highlight of my life right now. So I’m just really enjoying every moment. They make it a lot of fun to make it through all of this, through something I’m never going to have again in my life: a baby and post-season tournament at the same time. I’m just embracing every moment as they give it to me.”

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Kentucky promotes Tilley to assistant AD spot

Kentucky promoted Amy Tilley to assistant athletics director for women’s basketball on Tuesday.

Tilley had been serving in that capacity since the resignation of Ukari Figgs at the start of last season.

“Amy stepped into this role under difficult circumstances in the middle of this season and she just did an incredible job,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said in a release.

“She invests so much time and thought into making our program better each day and I can’t think of anyone better to be in this role than her.”

Figgs left Mitchell’s staff in November to become an assembly engineering specialist at Toyota.

Tilley’s primary responsibilities at UK are team travel, scheduling, supervising all non-coaching personnel, management of the budget, facility coordinator, overseeing the student managers, supervising the team’s NIKE account and special event management.

Tilley, a former standout at Somerset, served as a UK administrative assistant for two seasons before leaving to become head coach at Paul Laurence Dunbar for the 2010-11 season.

She returned to UK after that. Prior to joining UK athletics, she was an accountant for Liberty alliance Federal Credit Union.

Tilley is a 2007 UK graduate with a major in finance. She received a master’s degree in secondary education from Eastern Kentucky in 2011 and will receive a second master’s degree in educational leadership from EKU later this month.

There is still one assistant coach opening left on Mitchell’s staff. He hired former video coordinator Christian Stefanopoulos last week for one of his two assistant coaching openings.

The contracts of assistants Shalon Pillow and Jeff House were not renewed.

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Goodin-Rogers completed treatment, expected to play

Freshman forward Kyvin Goodin-Rogers, who missed this season after a pulmonary embolism was discovered in her lungs in October, has completed her six-month treatment and is expected to make a full recovery, UK confirmed Thursday.

Goodin-Rogers tweeted on Wednesday that she felt “good to be released and actually playing.”

The 6-foot-1 forward was a four-year All-State selection at Marion County where she had 2,401 career points, 1,663 rebounds and 463 blocked shots.

Along with UK teammate Makayla Epps, Goodin-Rogers was a standout on the undefeated Knights team that won the 2013 Sweet Sixteen title.

“We plan to have her fully participating with the team when they resume workouts this summer,” UK spokesman Susan Lax said.

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Mitchell hires assistant coach, recruiting coordinator

Her Twitter profile and avatar had turned Kentucky blue in the past two weeks, but it finally became official on Thursday as UK announced the hiring of Christian Stefanopoulos as the team’s new assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.

Stefanopoulos, 30, worked for three seasons as the Cats’ video coordinator under Mitchell before taking an assistant job at Bucknell in Lewisburg, Pa.

“Her ability to connect with people enables her to recruit at an elite level,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said in a release. “It’s been my experience that players have always benefited from spending time with Christian whether it was on or off the court. I’m so happy she’s a Wildcat.”

The former Boone County standout worked primarily with the guards at Bucknell and helped the Bison to their biggest turnaround in school history, lifting the team from five wins in 2011-12 to 15 a season later.

Before joining the Bucknell staff, Stefanopoulos was an assistant coach at Morehead State. She was a graduate assistant with the Eagles prior to that under Mitchell in 2006-07. Then she followed Mitchell to UK where she was video coordinator.

“It’s always been my dream to return to Kentucky and have the opportunity to compete for a national championship,” she said in the release.

While playing at Austin Peay, Stefanopoulos won back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference championships and advanced to two NCAA Tournaments. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Thomas More in 2006 and a master’s degree in sports administration from Morehead in 2014.

After Kentucky went 26-9 and was dropped in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 this season by Baylor, Mitchell opted not to renew the contracts of assistant coaches Shalon Pillow and Jeff House.

Mitchell has yet to replace Pillow, who worked primarily with the post players.

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UK’s Mitchell lets two assistant coaches go

Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell has decided not to renew the contracts of two womens’ basketball coaching assistants.

Shalon Pillow, who worked with the post players and has been on staff since the 2009 season, and first-year assistant coach Jeff House have been let go by Mitchell.

“He’s making some changes on the staff,” Kentucky spokesman Susan Lax said.

The two assistant coaching positions were posted on the UK jobs board on Friday, with the deadline to apply on April 11.

The Cats’ other assistant coach, Danielle Santos, will remain on staff, Lax said.

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UK’s Cauley-Stein hopes he can play in Final Four

INDIANAPOLIS — A piece of net tucked behind his left ear and crutches under both arms, Willie Cauley-Stein couldn’t stop smiling.

After injuring his ankle in the region semifinals, Kentucky’s sophomore center didn’t get to play in the championship win over Michigan on Sunday, but he tried to do his part from the Cats’ bench.

“I was trying to be live as I could on the bench over there, but this is crazy,” he said on the court at Lucas Oil Stadium just seconds after Kentucky advanced to the Final Four. “It’s a dream come true and it’s not even over yet.”

He did his part to celebrate with teammates, too.

“I jumped on one leg,” he said. “I just had to improvise; I felt like a pogo stick.”

Cauley-Stein, who didn’t expound further on the extent of his injury, said he’s going to do everything he can to play in the Final Four.

Is there really a chance he can play?

“I really don’t know,” he said. “I hope so. I really hope so. I’m going to go back to Lexington and get a bunch of treatment, a lot of ice, a lot of (treatment) and maybe, just maybe, this weekend I’ll be able to suit up or something.”

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