Kentucky dismisses Oregon transfer Rowe

Before ever playing a game at Kentucky, transfer Chrishae Rowe has been dismissed from the program, the school confirmed on Thursday night.

Rowe, a star guard who led Oregon in scoring and was Pac-12 Freshman of the Year before being dismissed from that program, would’ve been eligible to start playing for UK in December.

In a statement through a spokesman, UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said Rowe was “dismissed from the team for failure to uphold standards of the program.

“We wish Crishae well in her future endeavors. We hope she can find success in her life.”

The Corona, Calif., native led the Ducks in scoring two seasons ago, averaging 21.6 points a game and setting a school record for most points scored in a game with 41. She led the NCAA in scoring among freshmen that season.

Rowe’s 690 points that season were just four points shy of breaking Oregon’s 30-year-old record for scoring in a season.

Rich will miss Madness

Kentucky freshman Morgan Rich will sit out Big Blue Madness on Friday because the 5-foot-10 guard hasn’t met certain standards to practice, a UK spokesman said. The Allen County-Scottsville star averaged 20.4 points and 7.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists a game last season and was rated the 30th best player in the 2015 class by ESPN.

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One of top 2017 players commits to Cats

Kentucky quietly picked up two more commitments in the past few weeks, including one of the top post players in the 2017 class on Saturday.

Madison Treece, a 6-foot-4 center from Saint Peters, Mo., committed to the Cats over the weekend. ESPN ranks her as the 30th best player in the 2017 class and the fifth best post player. She picked UK over Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Dayton and Iowa among others.

Treece joins 5-foot-6 point guard Kameron Roach as the Cats’ second commitment for the 2017 class.

  • Chanin Scott, a 6-foot forward from Charlotte, also recently committed to Kentucky. An AAU teammate of Roach, Scott is ranked as the 34th best swing player in the 2016 class by ESPN. Scott, who also is a volleyball player, helped lead her Myers Park High School team to two straight 4A state championships. Scott joins Lindsey Corsaro, a 6-foot guard from Indianapolis ranked No. 35 nationally by ESPN, as the Cats’ two 2016 commitments.
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Suspension nearly over for UK’s Epps

Makayla Epps won’t be at Big Blue Madness this season.

Instead, Kentucky’s junior guard will be back at the team’s practice facility working out.

Missing Madness, the Cats’ exhibition game and their season opener versus Rice on Nov. 13 are the final pieces of her suspension after an off-season incident in her hometown.

But more than that, they’re the final steps Epps has to take to prove to UK Coach Matthew Mitchell that she’s ready to take that next step and become a leader this season.

“She has been extremely positive and we have made some strides toward transformation and that’s what it’s about, her transforming as a person,” Mitchell told the Herald-Leader on Wednesday morning in a wide-ranging interview.

Epps got into hot water late in the spring for several alcohol-related charges stemming from an incident in Lebanon on April 12 at 1:48 a.m. when the point guard was found in a car with another female minor at a park. The alcohol charges were dismissed June 10 after she completed 20 hours of community service in Lebanon.

A few months later, Mitchell said Epps still was working her way back onto the team without disclosing terms of her suspension.

Many of the things that Mitchell was hoping to see from the Cats’ leading scorer last season have happened.

And then some.

“I’m so happy with the result so far,” he said. “She can’t ever rest on the success because that’s been her main problem, so I’m always cautious when I talk about Makayla because the total transformation has not happened, but we are moving in that direction.

“I’m optimistic that it will go well, and she’s not showing any signs that it’s not. She’s in charge of her actions and her decisions and what she does.”

Epps, who averaged 14.9 points and nearly three assists a game for Kentucky last season, did well in her classes this summer, was active in the community and had a positive overall attitude, Mitchell said.

Perhaps a byproduct of all of that is that the 5-foot-10 star is in the best shape of her life, Mitchell said.

“On the court, she’s a very different player,” he said. “She’s hustling much more. She’s been much more of a leader, talking. … She’s in tremendous shape. I just can’t even believe it. She can run for days.”

Missing Madness and the season opener is about looking at the bigger picture.

“I didn’t suspend Madness to be mean; I’m trying to make it clear that really when that ball goes up in the air against Arizona State (the second game of the season), you’re the best player on the floor and you need to train that way and know you’re in good enough shape to be that,” he said.

The larger message to Epps, who is not available to the media, has been that she can be even better than she was a season ago when she was named a First Team All-Southeastern Conference selection.

“If she can keep her mind right, she is one of the best players in the country,” Mitchell said.

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2017 guard Roach commits to Cats

Kameron Roach, a 5-foot-6 point guard from South Carolina, confirmed that she committed to Kentucky and Coach Matthew Mitchell on Friday.

The Lower Richland junior, who averaged 11.5 points and 3.7 assists last season, said she picked Kentucky over offers from South Carolina, Clemson, Dayton, Seton Hall, Charlotte, Furman and several others.

Roach was ranked No. 56 in the Hoopgurlz Super 60 rankings for the Class of 2017.

“I’m proud to be a part of the Big Blue Nation,” she messaged.

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A look at Cats’ new roster

It was Kentucky women’s basketball Photo Day, which also meant roster release and a look at the new players with their new numbers.

Junior college transfer Evelyn Akhator will wear No. 13 with true freshmen Batouly Camara (No. 1); Maci Morris (No. 4); Morgan Rich (No. 11) and Taylor Murray (No. 24). Transfer Makenzie Cann, who sits out this season per NCAA rules, will wear No. 22.

No. Player Pos. Ht. Yr.
1 Batouly Camara F 6-2 Fr.
2 Ivana Jakubcova F 6-6 Sr.
3 Janee Thompson PG 5-7 Sr.
4 Maci Morris G 6-0 Fr.
5 Kyvin Goodin-Rogers F 6-1 Jr.
11 Morgan Rich G 5-10 Fr.
13 Evelyn Akhator F 6-2 Jr.
15 Linnae Harper G 5-8 Jr.
21 Crishae Rowe G 5-8 So.
22 Makenzie Cann G 6-0 So.
24 Taylor Murray PG 5-6 Fr.
25 Makayla Epps G 5-10 Jr.
35 Alexis Jennings F 6-2 So.
45 Alyssa Rice F 6-3 So.
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UK releases non-conference schedule

The same season when Kentucky might get to play its NCAA Tournament Regional games at Rupp Arena, it also will have two big regular-season home games there.

Coach Matthew Mitchell said recently that the games at the downtown venue versus Louisville (Dec. 10) and Duke (Dec. 20) weren’t at all about getting comfy on the Cats’ other home court, though.

“I just don’t think if you play four times in Rupp that you’re going to play great if you’re fortunate enough to get in the Sweet 16,” Mitchell told the Herald-Leader in July. “I just don’t think that way.”

But Mitchell has been pondering ways to build fan support and draw more fans to the women’s game by using games at Rupp Arena.

“We’ve spent more time as a program thinking about how to use Rupp effectively,” he said. “I’m just so gun shy. I just remember the days when we’d get 5,000 in Rupp and we were playing down there seven and eight times.

“Now we’ve got a little momentum there. We’ve had three straight crowds in excess of 18,000 and that is the largest game in the country in women’s basketball for that time period.”

Mitchell always has enjoyed having the Louisville game at Memorial Coliseum, he said, but the NCAA Tournament volleyball regional on the Cats’ regular home court for that date necessitated the move.

“It will be great in Rupp because both teams are very good, so it will be fine,” he said.

The nonconference schedule released on Thursday, has Kentucky facing four teams that appeared in the NCAA Tournament last season, including three who finished in the Sweet 16.

The Cats open the season on Nov. 13 versus Rice and then heading to first-time opponent Arizona State on Nov. 15.

The Cats then host four straight home games versus Morehead State (Nov. 18), Colorado (Nov. 22), Eastern Michigan (Nov. 25) and Jackson State (Nov. 29) before making a trip to Northern Kentucky.

New to Division I, Mitchell said the trip to NKU on Dec. 2 will be fun.

“We’re trying to do our part to take our show on the road and expose people to Kentucky basketball because we are one of the exciting brands in women’s college basketball,” he said, noting that he’s hopeful the many UK fans in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati will attend.

Another part of the equation was setting up a home-and-home that won’t cost UK any guarantee money.

“We are trying to be a good partner here in the athletic department and when we can get regional home and homes that don’t cost you guarantee money,” he said. “It’s a good game for us.”

Eight days later comes the game versus Louisville, then a trip to Middle Tennessee on Dec. 13 before hosting Duke and then Tennessee State on Dec. 28 before Southeastern Conference play starts in January.

The SEC portion of the schedule is expected to be released soon.

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Schedule release is ‘days away’

Kentucky is close to completing and releasing its schedule, Coach Matthew Mitchell said on Wednesday. UK is still waiting for final word from the Southeastern Conference and for a nonconference game contract to be signed and returned.

“That is on the horizon very, very soon,” he said of the schedule release. “Days away. … It will be a good one for a good team.”

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Top players in program history?

A member of the media covering Louisville asked me to offer my list of the top eight Kentucky women’s basketball players in school history. It’s an interesting debate, made all the more interesting to me by how much the game has changed since the 1970s. I have five or six players that I think definitely belong on this list, but it gets interesting beyond that.

For what it’s worth, the Louisville players offered up as the Cardinals’ best in program history are: Angel McCoughtry, Shoni Schimmel, Candyce Bingham, Jazz Covington, Asia Taylor, Valerie Owens, Monique Reid and Nell Knox.

Here are my top six Kentucky women’s players: Valerie Still, A’dia Mathies, Victoria Dunlap, Leslie Nichols, Patty Jo Hedges and Lea Wise Prewitt.

Who else?

 

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Anderson County’s Cann transfers to UK

A former Anderson County star tweeted on Monday night that she’s leaving Cincinnati and plans to enroll at Kentucky.

“Excited to announce I will be transferring to the University of Kentucky & playing basketball,” Makenzie Cann tweeted. “Can’t wait to be apart of the #BBN.”

UK confirmed that the 6-foot guard is planning to walk on at the school and will have to sit for a season, per NCAA transfer rules.

Cann played in all 30 games last season with one start for the Bearcats, averaging 6.9 points and 1.8 rebounds in nearly 23 minutes a game as a true freshman.

She was Cincinnati’s fourth-leading scorer and second-best three-point shooter, averaging 36.8 percent from long range. That percentage is higher than any UK player last season and her 49 made three-pointers last year would’ve been second most for the Cats.

Cann, a five-year starter for Anderson County and finalist for Kentucky Miss Basketball, led the Bearcats to a 129-31 record. She finished first in school history in assists (645), second in points (2,207) and steals (468) and fourth in rebounds (748).

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Nation’s top junior college player commits to UK

The nation’s best junior college player who led her Chipola Community College to a national championship has committed to Kentucky.

Evelyn Akhator, a 6-foot-3 forward from Lagos, Nigeria, picked the Cats over Tennessee, Texas and Florida State.

In her two seasons at Chipola, Akhator led the Indians in scoring and rebounding. Last season, she averaged 21.2 points, 16.7 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2.9 blocked shots.

She broke the single-season scoring and rebounding records for the school as well on Chipola’s way to a 34-1 season and a national title.

Chipola Coach Greg Franklin had high praise for Akhator after she helped lead the school to a junior college national championship.

“I’ve coached four kids in junior college that went on to be first round draft picks in the WNBA, and at this point in time Evelyn is probably head and shoulders better than all of those guys,” he said in a story on the school’s website.

“Everyone says she’s just a physical specimen and she is, but you have to look at the way she has gone about getting better. She has gotten her skill level where she finishes with her left real well. She also has worked on her footwork extremely hard and finishing with balance. When her skill and athleticism finally meet, she’s going to be unreal.

“But as good of a player as she is, she’s that good of a person, and that sets the tone for the whole team.”

At a school awards ceremony last week, Akhator received the Neal Sportsmanship Award for her “unwavering leadership contributions both on and off the court.”

Kentucky returns three post players in Kyvin Goodin-Rogers, Alexis Jennings and Alyssa Rice, and the Cats already have signed 6-foot-2 freshman Batouly Camara, rated as the ninth best post player in the class by ESPN.

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