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From the Pressbox: Mitchell on UK Hoops and other men's basketball, football notes

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We get our first look at the UK women's basketball team against outside competition Monday night when the Wildcats play their only preseason game against Bellarmine.  And expectations are at an all-time high for coach Matthew Mitchell's team.

Mitchell has praised senior Southeastern Conference player-of-the-year pick A'dia Mathis for her role in leading the transformation of this program into one of the nation's elite. But good coaches challenge even their best players to do more - and so it is for Mathies this season.

"The program has literally transformed during the time she's been on campus. (Yet) she's always struggled a little with her consistency in practice and with her ability to try to impact others in a leadership role. There's been times when she's had lapses so I think the final piece of the puzzle for her is to embrace her leadership role," Mitchell said on a recent edition of "The Leach Report" radio show. "Whether she likes it or not, people look up to her because of her incredible production. She's a very intelligent player and I just really want her to take a step forward in a leadership department because I think it will have a powerful impact on our team and  think it'll make a big impact on the outcome of this season."

And this could be a breakout year for Samarie Walker. She came highly touted as a transfer from UConn but was not able to consistently play at her peak level in her first season at UK. Nevertheless, she showed enough to lead the coaches to pick her for second-team preseason All-SEC.

"Samarie looks a lot better offensively," noted Mitchell. "I think last year you didn't see her at her best offensively. She looks much more comfortable, much more confident  and much more aggressive."

There's only one freshman on the UK roster this season, but Mitchell is expecting big things from point guard Janee Thompson.

"Man, is she talented offensively. She's very gifted - great ball handling, great scoring ability and can shoot the ball. She's taking some time to get up to speed defensively but I'm not overly concerned about that (because it's early)."

Malone on Noel's progress


UK walk-on Sam Malone and freshman star Nerlens Noel are both alumni of New England's Tilton High School and that naturally led to an early connection between the two.

Malone knows comparisons between Noel and Anthony Davis are inevitable but he says fans need to remember that the Davis that finished last season was a much different player than the one who started it. And Malone believes Noel will handle all the attention just fine.

"He is definitely comfortable in his own skin and when Anthony first came in, he was a project. He was nowhere close to where he is now and it's the same thing with Nerlens. He is a project," Malone said, "but he has the potential and I think he is willing to work hard enough to develop that.

"We didn't know each other before. I went to Tilton and he went to Tilton a few years after me. We weren't there at the same time. We played for the same AAU team but not at the same time but we have a ton of mutual friends in Boston," Malone added.  "I hung out with him a bunch this summer."

Football Cats looking to shake off fumble-prone performance


Fumbles were a big issue for the Kentucky football in its loss at Missouri last Saturday but an odd statistical quirk bodes well for the Cats this week, since they play Vandy in Commonwealth Stadium.

Kentucky has a stretch of eight consecutive home games without losing a fumble, dating back to last year's game against Jacksonville State.

Time of possession a key for SEC squads

Of the top seven teams in the SEC in the time-of-possession stat, six have winning records and are nationally ranked. The only one that isn't ranked is Vandy, which is number five in TOP, and the Commodores are 4-4 and in the hunt for a bowl.

Kentucky ranks last in time-of-possession and of the league's bottom seven teams in that TOP stat, only two - Texas A&M and Ole Miss - have winning records.

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