Kentucky Women's Basketball Embracing Change
Change is all around the 2015-16 Kentucky women’s basketball team, and that change is coming in a number of different forms.
The most noticeable one will be seen in every game this season. Due to off-season rule changes, the women’s college game will now look more like the style of play of other women’s leagues. That’s because instead of playing two 20-minute halves as they have in the past, the women will now play four 10-minute periods.
Kentucky got its first chance to experience that change in Sunday’s 95-63 exhibition win over Union University. What did head coach Matthew Mitchell think of the change?
“I think (the changes) are going to lead to a lot of excitement for our game,” Mitchell said. “It’s going to change a lot of strategies in the last minute of the game. There are going to be some changes that we all have to become good at strategically.”
Junior guard Janee Thompson noted a few differences with the new format.
“There were more late-clock situations,” Thompson said. “That was a little bit of an adjustment for us, and that was the biggest difference. I won’t say I like (four periods) better than the two halves, but I do like it. It’s how they play at the next level.”
Speaking of Thompson, she’s going through a number of changes of her own. After suffering a season-ending leg injury last season, Thompson is back running the point-guard position for Kentucky. She has made some changes to her preparation in order to deal with the injury.
“Now, I really have to pay attention to my body and listen to it,” Thompson says. “There are things that I have to do so that my body is warmed up and I’m ready to go.”
Mitchell is careful to keep an eye on Thompson and to make sure she gets her rest when she needs it.
“We’re still a work in progress, we’re paying attention to her work load,” Mitchell said. “She performed very well (on Sunday). It’s just a matter of how much recovery does she need. She was a little sore and banged up after the game, but that’s to be expected with the type of injury she received.”
The changes for Kentucky don’t stop there. In Sunday’s exhibition, the Wildcats used eight players, including five who did not play in a game last season.
Among the newcomers seeing their first action in a Kentucky uniform on Sunday was freshman Maci Morris, who hails from Pineville, Ky.
“It was amazing,” Morris said of her first experience wearing a Kentucky uniform. “I was nervous at first, but once I stepped on the floor, the nerves went away.”
Morris is also dealing with the differences in playing high-school basketball against playing at a high level in college. And she knows what the biggest differences are.
“The speed is definitely a lot faster,” Morris said. “You have to think quicker and react quicker to everything.”
Morris scored 10 points in Sunday’s exhibition, but she knows that there is room for improvement.
“I thought I did pretty well,” she said. “There are a lot of things I could improve on and that our team could improve on, but I was happy with our effort. I think we’ll keep on improving.”
Thompson has seen Morris and the other newcomers making progress in practice.
“They’re doing really well,” Thompson said. “I think they are progressing and they’re working really hard to get where we need them to be for us to compete at a high level.”
Adapting to change will be key for Kentucky this season. So far, it seems that the Wildcats are embracing all that’s changing around them.