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Epps' point-guard evolution underway

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Makayla Epps stepped into a full-time role as Kentucky's point guard in mid-January.

At the time - as Epps replaced injured junior Janee Thompson - Matthew Mitchell said she could develop into one of the best point guards in the Southeastern Conference.

Almost exactly a month later, that's exactly what's happened.

"I think Epps is really, really good," Mitchell said. "And so when you have a point guard that's near the top of the league, that helps everybody. That helps everybody, especially a scoring point guard."

In six games since Thompson went down, Epps is averaging 17.5 points , 4.7 rebounds and three assists. She has led No. 10 UK (18-5, 7-3 SEC) to wins in four of the games, including an 82-68 win over Vanderbilt on Sunday in which she posted 18 points.

Entering a tough Thursday matchup with No. 13/15 Mississippi State (23-3, 8-3 SEC), Epps is getting better by the day.

"I think when you're a player like Makayla, it's just constant attention to detail, which will lead to continuous improvement," Mitchell said.

For Epps, the little things go well beyond the physical. The sophomore who has played four positions is figuring out the intricacies that accompany the role she's settled into.

"Makayla Epps is starting to go and grab people off the floor and get people in the huddle like a point guard needs to," Mitchell said. "And I really complimented her on that yesterday."

Epps earned praise again from Mitchell during a defensive drill in practice on Tuesday. He said she was "working as hard as a human being could work.

"If she'll do that, it'll be hard to find a better player than her around because she can do everything that you need her to do to be a good player offensively and defensively," Mitchell said.

Mitchell, however, doesn't want Epps to settle for merely being good. He believes she has too much natural talent for that.

"She's one of these players that when she has her mind right and mindset doing the little things, she's a fantastic player," Mitchell said. "So once you get to that point, you just have to learn the mental discipline to keep striving for your best. And that's what, to me, what separates the good ones from the great ones."

No matter what she does, Mitchell sees a bright future for Epps in both the short and long term. If she accepts the challenge to make the small changes she's starting to make permanent, the sky is the limit.

"Let's just say if she just incrementally better just from being here and through experience, it'd be hard to find a lot better player than her," Mitchell said. "She'll be fine and she can help us win some games. But if she'll really do what we're asking her to do, she'll be a 10-year pro and be one of the best players that's ever played here."

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