New Attitude Helping Jennings' Game
As a freshman last season, Kentucky’s Alexis Jennings showed flashes of the player she could become. During a stretch last season that included games against Duke, Tennessee State and Alabama, Jennings led Kentucky in scoring in all three contests, proving she could hold her own against some of the nation’s best talent.
But as the 2014-15 season went on, Jennings battled inconsistency. She struggled down the stretch, scoring in double figures only once in the season’s final eight games.
Heading into her sophomore season, both Jennings and head coach Matthew Mitchell knew that there needed to be an adjustment. And they both knew what that adjustment needed to be.
“She’s improved her attitude, and that was the first thing I wanted her to do this summer,” Mitchell said. “She continues to strengthen herself in that area.”
Jennings agrees with her coach’s assessment.
“I see a complete difference,” Jennings said. “Last season, I was negative a little bit because things weren’t going my way.”
It’s not that last season wasn’t a good one for Jennings. She averaged 7.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest, while playing in 34 games. Twice during the season she was named SEC Freshman of the Week, and at the end of the year she was named to the SEC All-Freshman team.
But both Jennings and her head coach knew that there was so much more that the former Alabama High School Player of the Year could bring to the Wildcats.
“Offensively, she’s very gifted and does a good job,” Mitchell said. “When you get her close to the goal she can really score.
“We have to work on her understanding how much harder she needs to play on defense. She has a lot of room for improvement as a basketball player and I think that’s going to happen because of the work she’s doing on herself personally.”
Jennings knows that there is a physical component to her improvement as well.
“A big factor I’ve improved on is my conditioning,” Jennings said. “I’m not tired like I was last year. I wasn’t able to hang with the pace, but now I feel like I’m on track to becoming better than I was last year.”
The results of her improved attitude and conditioning can be seen on the court. Jennings is second on this year’s team in scoring (15.3 points per game) and rebounding (9.3 per game). She had her first double-double of the season on Wednesday night, when she scored a career-high 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
Mitchell was pleased with Jennings’ effort on Wednesday, but he knows she can do much more.
“Alexis has plenty of talent, but she needs to couple that with an incredible work ethic and understanding what she needs to do to get better,” he said.
For Jennings, success starts with her new outlook on basketball.
“I felt that being positive would lead to good things not only on the court, but off the court as well,” she said. “Positive is the way to go.”
Through three games, the results make it hard to argue with her logic.