Camara, Wildcats Look to Get Back on Winning Path

Earlier in the 2015-16 season, Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell could not keep freshman Batouly Camara in the lineup for the Wildcats. It wasn’t that she was playing badly or that she was making a number of mistakes that were hurting the team. It was because, in seemingly every game, Camara was in foul trouble.

However, as her rookie season has progressed, Camara has, for the most part, fixed her fouling issue. And in doing so, she has become a much more productive player for the Wildcats.

In Thursday’s loss at No. 2 South Carolina, Camara proved that she could play with just about anyone in the country. Facing the Gamecocks’ formidable front line, Camara scored a career-high 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 25 minutes of action. While she did foul out of the game, it was probably her best effort of the season.

“(Camara) was very aggressive last night offensively and defensively,” Mitchell said. “She made a ton of mistakes, but she played. When some kids were backing up against that big size (of South Carolina), she was going at them. I loved that.”

No one could have seen that kind of effort coming, especially after Camara played just three minutes in Kentucky’s previous game, an 85-79 loss at Florida. 

Mitchell had a clear explanation as to why Camara didn’t play more at Florida.

“The issue in the Florida game was that she was stopping,” Mitchell said. “If a play didn’t develop the way she wanted to, she would just stop.”

So, how did she go from playing just three minutes to earning her second career start in the span of four days?

“After the Florida game, she really came to practice and really put her best foot forward,” Mitchell said. “And that’s how she earned the start against South Carolina.”

Camara knows that she is progressing, but she also knows she can still make improvements. When asked what aspects of her game she needs to work on, her answer was simple.

“My defensive stance, guarding the ball and being tough,” she said. 

For the season, Camara averages 5.0 points and 4.7 rebounds, but those statistics only tell part of the story. That’s because Camara has been singled out as an outstanding teammate by several Wildcats this season. What makes her such a good teammate?

“Every day, I try to bring positive energy,” Camara says. “I try to stay positive, and it’s not the easiest thing to do.”

Mitchell also knows that Camara brings a lot to the team.

“(Camara is) a high character person, cares about others,” Mitchell said. “We’ve never questioned whether she wanted to be a good teammate. She was letting her team down by stopping (at Florida), but you never questioned her intentions. She’s a fantastic person. We’re excited about her future. Batouly Camara will be a success here.”

Camara and her Wildcats return to action on Sunday when they face LSU at Memorial Coliseum (12 p.m. ET, SEC Network). After losing three games in a row in the SEC, Kentucky finds itself at 15-6 overall and 4-6 in conference play.

Mitchell knows that his team needs to stay the course.

“You have to believe in what you’re doing,” Mitchell said. “There’s a reason we lost the last three games. It’s attention to details, defensive effort, paying attention to the little things.”

Camara knows that Sunday is important to the team as well. “Sunday is huge for us,” she said. “Every game is a learning process and we have to learn from our mistakes.”

Mitchell knows that his team is going through a rough patch, but he also sees how his team can get back on track.

“I loved the way they worked going into the South Carolina game,” Mitchell said. “If we can work that hard between now and Sunday, I think we can get a victory.”