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UK held its annual Media Day on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK held its annual Media Day on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For outsiders, intrigue surrounds the two-platoon system John Calipari plans to use this year.

Which players will play together? Will regular-season opponents be as overwhelmed by UK's depth as its Big Blue Bahamas opponents? Will the Wildcats be able to stay together through the inevitable clutter that the season will bring?

For those inside Kentucky basketball's circle, as Coach Cal calls it, the feeling isn't all that different.

"It's just going to be interesting," Willie Cauley-Stein said. "It's going to be interesting to see how Cal pieces everything together and how -- once games start flowing -- how our intensity level's going to be once we start platooning."

Nearly two weeks into practicing full time, the intensity is there.

"The practices should be what they are, which is they're competitive," Calipari said. "There are no easy baskets. You're not getting layups."

As for the Cal piecing it together thing, there's a longer way to go on the eve of Big Blue Madness.

In the Bahamas, the Cats used two five-man units for four-minute stretches and deviated only in the case of blowouts and a couple close-and-late scenarios. Absent, however, were junior Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles, two of the more talented players on a roster full of them.

Cauley-Stein and Lyles, two months later, are back, giving Calipari two more options but also two more mouths to feed. The fact that they're both big men and they join an already crowded frontcourt featuring Karl-Anthony Towns, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress complicates matters even more.

Consequently, Coach Cal is doing some experimenting.

"I'm still not convinced of what the groups will look like," Calipari said. "Yesterday or two days ago I changed the group a little bit and I didn't like them. I went back. We may change some big guys and switch them on different teams to see what that looks like, because at the end of the day I'm coaching two teams."

UK's annual Media Day on Thursday was the first time Calipari put the job he's facing in those terms, but it makes sense.

Following the lead of his coaching mentors and the legendary John Wooden, Coach Cal has long espoused the notion that the best teams feature shorter rotations.

His track record backs that up.

On his three Final Four teams at UK, never have more than seven players averaged double-digit minutes. On the national title team, six players carried the load, with each playing at least 26.1 minutes per game.

Now set to try to achieve the same kind of success using a completely different style, Calipari is joking he needs another raise five months after signing a new contract.

"The best teams that I've coached, I've coached six guys, whether it's (UMass), Memphis or here," Calipari said. "Now that being said, I'm doing it twice now. In other words, I'm coaching these guys together, and I'm coaching two different teams I've asked to be paid twice. I'm not sure they'll do that, but if I've got to coach two teams, then I think it's fair -- a fair question anyway."

Calipari was struck by the idea for the platoon system when he learned Andrew and Aaron Harrison would both wait on the NBA Draft. Realizing he had a roster with 12 players who would likely start for almost any other team in the country, he had to devise a plan that would fit his players-first mantra.

Seeking to find a balance between playing so many guys and developing the kind of chemistry he believes is necessary to win at the highest level, he trotted out the platoons to great effect in the Bahamas. They worked, so they live on with less than a month before the Cats open the regular season against Grand Canyon on Nov. 14.

But as committed as he is to making a new system work, Calipari isn't chaining himself to his brainchild.

"This isn't communism, so if one group deserves to play a little bit more, they will," Calipari said. "It's not communism. If two guys separate themselves and need to get more minutes because you all look and say that kid is so good, he needs more minutes, it's not communism, they'll get more minutes."

To keep the socioeconomic analogy going, Calipari's players believe introducing some free-market concepts into the platoon system is a must.

"That's important because as a team we have to understand that if a guy's playing good he should be out there," Tyler Ulis said. "So if Andrew's in but it's my turn to rotate in, if he's playing good I should understand that he needs to be in the game at that point."

Calipari also opened the possibility of adjusting situationally.

"At the end of the game if they're fouling, it would probably be pretty smart to have five good foul shooters in," Calipari said. "And you won't believe this, I'll probably do that."

Short of those things, it's full steam ahead with the platoons. Calipari expects change as the season wears on, but for now the Cats are committed to doing whatever is asked of them.

"I think that everybody's ego is checked," Lyles said. "Everybody believes in each other and we're all happy for each other. Whatever Coach wants from us, I think that we're going to be able to do that."

Even more importantly, the players understand how the system can benefit them individually and the team as a whole.

"It won't be a problem because the outcome of the bigger picture of it," Cauley-Stein said. "The way that we can play with guys getting fewer minutes is going to make you look better, for one. And two, the intensity of the game is going to be crazy. When people watch us play and they see how fast everybody is and how quick we get the ball up the floor and how hard we play on defense, that sets the tone. People are going to look at that and just be amazed by that."

In spite of all that potential, Calipari is already hearing the "clutter" that will fly at his team all season on the recruiting trail. Over the noise, he also hears an opportunity calling him to prove the doubters wrong, have his watershed moment and do right by his players in an unprecedented way.

"Why would you go there?" Calipari said. "These guys aren't leaving. Here, oh, what if you only play 20 minutes? It's OK. It's less pressure. It's not on me. It's on us. I can be a great teammate. I can improve my skills, and they all got drafted and they all won, and then -- so it's an issue now if this works. I'm on a mission to make this work for each of these kids."

John Calipari at UK's annual Media Day on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Calipari at UK's annual Media Day on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
All the talk last year was 40-0.

Could Kentucky win them all? Could the 2013-14 group become the first team since Indiana in 1976 to go undefeated? What would be the biggest challenge in UK's pursuit of perfection?

Silly Cats -- they never stood a chance.

Kentucky, as we all know now, would fold in the first half of last season under such overwhelming expectations. Supremely talented but characteristically naïve for young guys, the freshman-dominated team lost early and unexpectedly often during spots of last season.

Technically speaking, the Cats never fully embraced the idea of going 40-0, but they sure as heck didn't downplay the talk either.
In hindsight, the older, wiser players admitted at Thursday's Media Day that they drank the Kool-Aid.

"We focused on we've got to win the national championship instead of taking it one game at a time," Andrew Harrison said. "We overlooked some teams. We didn't focus on every practice, every drill and every possession at practice. We paid for it."

They're hell-bent on making sure history doesn't repeat itself this season.

One year since the 40-0 talk hit a tipping point at last season's Media Day, there was no talk of historic achievements, no tiptoeing around the possibility of perfection, not even a whisper from the head coach who has admitted that he would one day like to go 40-0 - just because, he says, people say it can't be done.

With a team that probably has a better shot than last year's group did of going undefeated because of the increase in depth, experience and talent, not a single player talked about 40-0 on Thursday other than to downright squash the talk.

"We're not going to get caught up in the 40-0 talk again like we did last year," Dakari Johnson said.

Said fellow sophomore Dominique Hawkins: "We're definitely not saying 40-0 because of last year, what happened. We just feel like we need to compete and play our best. Like Coach Cal said, we're going to take it one game at a time."

Ah, the old "one game at a time" talk. But perhaps there's actually substance in the old sports cliché with these Wildcats.

See, last season, as Hawkins explained, they got caught up in the big picture of the expectations. They heard the talk of the 40-0 and they enjoyed it. They wanted to make history and certainly had the talent to do so.

"Coming in freshman year, we probably thought it was going to be easier than we thought," Hawkins said.

The problem was, in looking so far down the road, they forgot all the pit-stops along the way. Before they knew it, they weren't even halfway down the road with a couple of flat tires and a leaky transmission.

Fortunately for UK, the engine was still running at season's end.

"I'd never been through starting five freshmen," Calipari said Thursday. "I don't know of many people (who have). So there were things that we went through that it took time."

The Cats say youth had every bit to do with buying into the hype last year.

"It's hard transitioning from high school where no one's really saying much about you or you have a bad days and it's just like, it's just a bad day, it doesn't really matter," sophomore Marcus Lee said. "But in college, you have a bad day, it's blown up. You hear it for three days. And then you have that from that game to the next game to try to change your mindset. It's just something you learn by doing it."

Calipari calls it the process, something he swears by doing this year despite the allure of the final product.

"You cannot skip steps," he said Thursday.

Keep in mind, less than two hours earlier his team had just received the official stamp of preseason hype when it was voted the No. 1 team in the first USA Today Coaches' Poll of the year.

And yet Calipari was more interested in talking about losses this time around than how his team will avoid them.

"Is this going to be easy? No," he said. "How about this? Will there be bumps in the road? Oh yeah. We probably, in all likelihood, are going to lose a couple games. ... I have to be patient, too, and understand that's going to be part of the process."

The process stuff is nothing new from Calipari, but it fell on deaf (and freshman) ears last season.

"As players, we're young and we don't really understand sometimes the stuff that he's trying to tell us to get in our minds," Hawkins said. "When he said it over and over, that's what helped us realize that we needed to do that."

Only then, when the season was at its last stop, did the players fully understand what their head coach was talking about. Fortunately for them, it wasn't too late.

"Now we realize that since we played last year that every game is going to be someone's Super Bowl when they play against us," Hawkins said.

The difference this year is the Cats now know that from the outset.

"We've learned not to think about the season as a whole and just to think game by game and day by day, just to get better," Lee said. "We're more prepared because we're a year older, college wise, and we kind of know what to expect. We know how to get through tough times better. It's easier to deal with it ... when half the team already knows how to deal with it."

The only expectations this Kentucky group is concerned with are its own.

"The only expectations I have, again, making this work for all these kids," Calipari said. "If we do that, they'll drag this where it's supposed to go."


On Thursday, Mark Stoops spoke with the media for the final time before Kentucky's trip to LSU.

Following a light practice, Stoops sounded like a coach confident his team is prepared to turn in its best effort on Saturday.

"Good practice today, putting the finishing touches on a pretty good week of work so far," Stoops said. "Guys are excited. We'll have a run-through tomorrow, but so far so good. Been a good week. Guys have worked hard. Energy's high. So we expect to go down there and play well."

No matter how ready the Wildcats may be, beating the Tigers won't be easy. LSU is a young group, but Les Miles' team is talented.

"We'll be prepared," Stoops said. "It's still a challenge. It's obviously a very big challenge. They're not only physical, they're skilled and they know what they're doing. They put pressure on you."

The 100,000-plus in Tiger Stadium at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday will do the same. UK is two days away from facing its second road test of the season and handled the first at Florida well. Nonetheless, Stoops knows the Cats will need to respond when things go awry in Death Valley.

"(Noise) really didn't affect us much the last time we were at that type of environment," Stoops said. "Let's hope it's the same. I think it's certainly not uncommon to see some problems when you're in a hostile environment, so if we get a few, we've just got to be able to overcome them."

Video: Media day player interviews

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Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis


Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Karl-Anthony Towns


Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee


Patrick Towles threw for 369 yards at Florida, UK's lone road game so far in 2014. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Patrick Towles threw for 369 yards at Florida, UK's lone road game so far in 2014. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
They call it Death Valley for a reason.

Tiger Stadium, no matter who you ask, is among the most difficult places to play in college football. When LSU plays at night, winning becomes becomes an even tougher proposition for visitors.

On Saturday, Kentucky will face exactly that challenge.

But the sense of dread opponents are supposed to have ahead of a trip to Baton Rouge, La., it's not there for the Wildcats.

"I'm excited about getting down there and really just chalking it up and seeing where we're at," quarterback Patrick Towles. "They're a really good football team. I'm excited for the environment. I'm sure it's going to be packed."

It's not a lack of respect for Tiger Stadium or the crowd of 100,000-plus expected to pack it for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff on the SEC Network that's prompting that excitement. The Cats (5-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) don't see weakness in LSU (5-2, 1-2 SEC), a team coming off a win at Florida, either.

The attitude is all about viewing challenges as opportunities. That starts at the top.

"I love the atmosphere. I've been down there before," said head coach Mark Stoops, who lost 45-3 at LSU in 2006 as Arizona defensive coordinator. "They are passionate fans, and it's a hostile environment, and that's why we play. That's why we coach. We want to continue to win games to put ourselves in position to play in big games."

UK-LSU will have an unmistakably big-game feel.

The Cats, winners of three straight and two in a row in conference, are in the thick of the SEC East race. LSU, meanwhile, is a young team still setting its sights on winning the treacherous SEC West. The Tigers have lost twice, but to Mississippi State and Auburn, teams currently ranked No. 1 and No. 6 in the AP Top 25.

Les Miles' team is as athletic as ever, particularly on defense.

"They're inexperienced at certain positions, but very talented," Stoops said. "They're extremely talented in the secondary. You know, that's something that I noticed right away in watching them. Just have great appreciation for the way they cover people. They're big and long and athletic, and obviously very well coached with Coach (John) Chavis being around forever, doing a great job."

Of the 13 players listed on LSU's depth chart at cornerback and safety, only one is shorter than 6 feet. Sophomore corner Rashard Robinson is the tallest of the bunch at 6-3, but the whole group - which Neal Brown called the most talented UK has played - will present problems.

"We've got to be able to stick our releases and we must keep their hands off of us," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "And we've got to take into effect that they're a little bit longer than the average guy we're going against."

UK will have its hands full closer to the line of scrimmage as well. Brown likened 6-6 defensive end Danielle Hunter to Florida star Dante Fowler and called Kwon Alexander the best linebacker UK will have faced.

"Athletic, long and fast," Towles said of the LSU defense. "A lot like Florida and how they were. I mean, they're tough. I mean, they're good everywhere, so it's going to be a challenge for us."

It's a challenge the likes of which Towles has responded to before. The sophomore's high-school reputation for playing his best when it matters most has followed him to college, with Towles turning in a 369-yard effort through the air at Florida in UK's lone loss and showing few ill effects from the most hostile atmosphere he's faced to date.

"We always got to answer the bell when it calls," Towles said. "The Florida game it called. Whenever it does, you've got to answer. That's how really we've been all year. When somebody throws a shot at you, you've got to throw one back. That's kind of been the big difference between this year and years past. Yeah, I mean, if I'm going to have to make a play there's no doubt in my mind I'm going to make the play."

Towles' production this season has fluctuated based on what his team has needed. He had a big statistical day at Florida, making multiple downfield throws, but played it closer to the vest in wins over South Carolina and Ohio.

The dynamic has prompted the "game-manager" label to be thrown around this week. Towles didn't cringe when the phrase came up and Stoops actually called it a positive, but both head coach and quarterback know Towles going to have to come up big at LSU.

"I know he's going to have to throw the ball well for us to win some games," Stoops said. "And this week it's not going to be easy, and he has to be more than a manager in this game. His talent has to show and he's gotta play confident and he's gotta throw the ball and he's gotta play aggressive."

The same is true for UK's defense.

The Cats, after a rough start against ULM, bounced back and pitched a shutout over the final 45 minutes. UK allowed just 77 yards on 40 carries, shoring up a run defense that struggled against South Carolina and Florida. LSU gets it done differently than the Gamecocks and Gators, but no less effectively, especially with the emergence of true freshman Leonard Fournette.

"LSU is almost exclusively a pro-style offense," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "Florida and South Carolina, they did a lot of different things and different looks, and LSU is a pro-style offense, so you mainly see pro-style runs. You see an I backfield. You see the quarterback under center. You see power. You see iso plays, where the fullback's (isolating) up on the linebackers."

At quarterback, LSU has rotated between sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris. Miles named Jennings the starter this week, but that hasn't affected UK's preparation a great deal.

"Both are very athletic," Eliot said. "You got to keep them contained. If they get out, they can get some yards. Strong arms. So there's not really much difference between the two."

Believe it or not, the atmosphere the Cats will walk into on Saturday hasn't affected their preparation much either. They feel like they're ready for it.

"The game plan we've got, it really carries and it works everywhere," Towles said. "For the really good teams, that loudness is not a distraction. Really, for me, I love playing on the road because it really helps me focus better. If I got a lot of people yelling, I know that, 'Hey, I gotta really focus right now.' So I like it. I hope they get as loud as they can."

UK piling up good practices in LSU prep

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Offensive coordinator Neal Brown left the field on Tuesday praising Kentucky's preparation.

Based on what D.J. Eliot said on Wednesday, the Wildcats are piling up good practices ahead of a trip to LSU on Saturday.

"We had a very good practice today," Eliot said. "We had a lot of intensity. Guys were flying around, communicating, playing physical and making plays. That's what we needed to have on a Wednesday."

The good start to LSU week comes on the heels of a game on Saturday in which UK started slow and fell behind 14-3 early in the first quarter. Practicing well is one sign the slow start won't repeat itself at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.

"We've had a very good practice this week," Eliot said. "Last week, couldn't necessarily tell at the moment, but obviously that was the case to start the game on Saturday. So I think that this week we've had good tempo and good practice, and guys are ready."

In spite of the way UK started against ULM, the Wildcats were improved in run defense after the Gamecocks gashed them a week earlier. UK allowed just 77 yards on 40 carries against the Warhawks.

"We were much better," Eliot said. "We played better against the run. Linebackers played better, which is good. Khalid Henderson had one of his best games. And it was good to see us make those strides."

Considering the way true freshman Leonard Fournette (140 yards and two touchdowns against Florida) has been running in LSU's pro-style attack, the Cats will need to be on their game again this weekend.

"He is a very, very, very good tailback," Eliot said. "He is extremely athletic but yet has size where he can run you over too. And he's become a better player every game. Being a freshman, he doesn't have any college experience and you can see the improvement in him every single game. And he sees the hole very well. He has great vision, change of direction and, like I said, power."

The 2014-15 Kentucky women's basketball team. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics) The 2014-15 Kentucky women's basketball team. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics)
Leading UK Hoops in its ascendance to among the best programs in women's college basketball, Matthew Mitchell has coached some truly elite players.

In recent seasons, Victoria Dunlap, A'dia Mathies and DeNesha Stallworth have been capable of carrying Kentucky to wins and they often have. Thanks in large part to them, Mitchell's teams have made four Sweet 16 trips in five seasons.

This year, UK's roster looks a little different.

"I think that we don't have a real definite superstar that's going to carry us," Mitchell said.

Based on that fact, Mitchell collaborated with his coaching and marketing staff to shape the theme for 2014-15. They settled on "Our Season," and the meaning behind it is simple.

UK might not have a superstar capable of taking over on any given night, but the Cats do have a collection of talent that can carry them to the same heights as in previous years. In fact, they believe they can sail even higher if they live out the mantra.

"We're really going to have to do it together," Mitchell said. "The players are going to have to take great ownership in their team and really become a group."

Mitchell and the Cats took a first step toward doing that by participating in an exercise of self-reflection.

"What can you really become?" Mitchell said. "What limitations does the team have? What limitations do I have as a coach? What can I do well as a coach? What can the team do well?"

Through that exercise, Mitchell, his staff and players identified three superlatives the Cats need to work toward.

First, Mitchell believes UK can be the most defensively disruptive team in the country. Based on his background coaching his "40 minutes of dread" style, his opinion has some weight.

Next, Mitchell sees potential for Kentucky to be the fastest team in the country. Considering UK returns all but one major contributor from a dynamic backcourt of a season ago - including point guards Janee Thompson, Jennifer O'Neill and Makayla Epps, a trio that can even play together - that seems a possibility.

Last, Mitchell wants his team to be the toughest group in the nation. With indefatigable senior guard Bria Goss leading the way, it would be unwise to discount the Cats on that front.

"I believe those are all reachable goals for us," Mitchell said. "Now, where does that land us? I don't know."

The destination might be unclear, but the path is not.

"I think that when you focus on those things, then your practice has to look like that every day," Mitchell said. "You've got to have tough practices, you've got to have fast-paced practices, you have to spend the time to be disruptive on defense."

Even though Big Blue Madness - historically the first practice of the season - isn't until Friday, the Cats have been at work since Oct. 5. What Mitchell is asking in demanding his team become the most disruptive, fastest and toughest in the game isn't easy, but the Cats are responding to the challenge so far.

"It's real, real difficult to be your best," Mitchell said. "It's real difficult. Most people are just kind of getting by, and most people are just sort of existing and doing enough to get whatever done and is required. So, we're trying to go above that. The thing that I continue to tell them is that we're not asking you to do anything you can't do. You're capable."

Fitting right in so far is UK's highly touted freshman class of guard Jaycee Coe and post players Alexis Jennings and Alyssa Rice. The same is true of gifted sophomores Epps, Linnae Harper and Kyvin Goodin-Rogers, though Goodin-Rogers fits in more with that freshman group since she sat out last season while recovering from a pulmonary embolism.

"Last year's freshmen to the sophomores this year are miles ahead of where they were," Mitchell said. "The freshmen this year, from a work standpoint, are miles ahead of where the freshmen were last year. That young core that we have that we're depending on, there have been some real signs of optimism."

When the freshmen face inevitable lapses, Goss will be there. She has been a consistent positive presence in topping the 1,000-point mark through her first three seasons at UK, but her leadership figures to be even more valuable now that she's one of four seniors on the team.

"She's very vocal, very committed, great example of what we want our players to be from a character standpoint," Mitchell said. "She's really shooting the ball well, shooting the ball great right now. I think she'll be a big key to us."

As important as Goss may be, UK's success isn't all about her or any single coach or player. The Cats are calling 2014-15 "Our Season" for good reason.

"I just think that they have great, great promise and ability to be a great team," Mitchell said. "But they're going to have to do it together."

Off to its best start since 2007, the Kentucky football team continued preparations for Saturday's road test at one of the nation's most hostile environments, LSU.

Kentucky (5-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) faces another stiff league test when it ventures to Tiger Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff Saturday on the SEC Network.

Following Tuesday's practice inside the Nutter Fieldhouse, UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown talked about UK's improved focus after a "lackluster" week in preparing for ULM.

"We had a really good practice today, had a lot of energy, a lot of focus," Brown said. "I told you after the game we were a little lackluster last week in practice. Got away from some details. Really I thought going into that South Carolina game, we really prepared well and really played with a lot of discipline, a lot of details. Some of our negative plays last week in the Monroe game were due to some fundamental errors, not paying attention to details. We got back to that today, had a really good practice. Focus was good, energy was good."

The Wildcats will be facing a challenging threat in a menacing Death Valley crowd for a night game against the host Tigers.

"Our guys are excited about the opportunity to go down and play in Tiger Stadium, Death Valley," Brown said. "LSU is about what you'd expect. They're big, fast, strong."

LSU (5-2, 1-2 SEC) is coming off a 30-27 win at Florida last Saturday. LSU is averaging 101,460 per home game inside Tiger Stadium in 2014.

"They're the most talented secondary we've played," Brown said. "They've got some youth there, but they are really talented. They've got guys that will play for pay and play for a lot of pay. So we've got our hands full, but we're looking forward to it. What? 7:30? 7:30 kick. Let's see if we can go down there and get our sixth win."

UK Hoops freshmen Jennings steps into big shoes

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Alexis Jennings (UK Athletics Photo) Alexis Jennings (UK Athletics Photo)
Alexis Jennings has big shoes to fill in more ways than one.

Yes, UK Hoops is looking to replace departed post plaers DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker -- two of the most productive players in program history.

But the 6-foot-2 true freshman forward has been following in hallowed footsteps her entire life.

Her mother, Tracy McCall, is a former professional basketball player and one of the best players in the history of the University of North Alabama.

Jennings hasn't shrunk from her strong basketball heritage. She's seemed to take on every challenge she's faced in the game in excelled so far in her career.

To date, she has lived up to, if not exceeded, the expectations one might have of a player from such a distinguished pedigree.

"My mom has always motivated me to be the best player I can be," Jennings said. "She's been there. She's in the Hall of Fame at UNA, where she did great things. I see myself as following on her path."

Jennings was rated the ninth best high-school post player in the nation and the No. 64 overall prospect class of 2014 by ESPN.

She was named 6A State Player of the Year and the 2013-14 Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year in Alabama after she led Sparkman High School to the state championship, averaging 22.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.9 blocks and 3.2 steals with an 81-percent free-throw shooting percentage.

So perhaps the challenge of stepping in and contributing at a perennially elite team right away isn't that daunting for Jennings.

"I want to come in right away and make an impact," Jennings said. "I will have a role to fill, and I want to do that to the best of my ability."

Jennings chose UK largely because the team's style of play seemed to fit her game.

"Alexis is an extremely versatile post player who possesses all of the characteristics we look for at Kentucky," UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. "She is strong, athletic and skilled. Her ability to run the floor was attractive to us.

"Alexis has 3-point shooting range which will stretch the defense and she can also put the ball on the floor and get to the basket to score. She is hard-nosed and tough on the defensive end and she will be very effective in full-court press situations. I am thrilled Alexis chose Kentucky. She will be a significant player here."

When asked to describe her style, Jennings seemed to agree with her coach.

She made it a point to mention her ability to run the floor, but asserted that her post game was her strongest asset.

"I'm a versatile player," Jennings said. "I like to run, and I think I'm more effective in the open floor. I think I'm very strong down low and I can step back and shoot the 3."

So Jennings' game seems to fit Mitchell's up-tempo, pressure defense-based playing style, but she chose for Kentucky for reasons bigger than just basketball.

"I came here because it's a family-oriented program," Jennings said. "And its been evident since we started practicing. Players like Jennifer O'Neill have taken me under their wing. She's made me feel like I'm sisters with everyone on the team already. She's been here a while, and I can count on her to give it to me straight. Every practice she encourages me."

So far things seem to have gone smoothly for Jennings, but bigger stages and bigger challenges await.

In terms of stage it won't get much bigger than Friday's Big Blue Madness.

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