Notebook: Critical Week of Improvement Ahead; Cann Ready to Contribute


LEXINGTON, Ky. – All the preseason hoopla is over. Matthew Mitchell and Co. have made the rounds at the annual preseason events, including the Tipoff Luncheon in Louisville, SEC Tipoff Media Day in Nashville and local media day in Lexington. Now, the task is simple for the 2016-17 team: continue to take steps forward.

“We had a great weekend,” said Mitchell, who hosted 50-plus coaches at a coaches clinic Saturday morning while several members of team had their families in town for family weekend. 
“Had a good practice on Saturday and yesterday was off and came back early this morning and lifted and then practiced. You know, we are getting there. We are about halfway through preseason practices and have a long way to go. As I have said over and over, I really believe in the character of this team. We just have to figure out (a few details) and this week we need to get better defensively. We are doing some very nice things offensively. It will be an important week of practice as we lead up to the season.” 

Critical was the word Mitchell used to the team Monday to describe the upcoming week of practice, which includes practices each day, before the team gets Saturday and Sunday to recover. With Kentucky’s lone exhibition only 10 days away, the coaching staff is wanting to see all the small details start to come together. 

“We have just spent a lot of time on trying to get the team’s mindset where it needs to be and we need to start putting some things together execution wise, especially defensively,” Mitchell said. “They are hustling, but they are just making too many mistakes. So tomorrow night, it is very important that we come in and have all of our responsibilities taken care of and all our academics taken care of so we can have a clear mind. Tomorrow night is an important practice for us. We need to take some steps forward.” 

Makenzie Cann Ready to Contribute After Transfer Season: Last season when UK head coach Matthew Mitchell was asked about his team’s hard work in practice, he immediately started talking about Cincinnati transfer and former Anderson County star, Makenzie Cann. Mitchell praised Cann for her work ethic in practice although the guard was having to sit out the entire season due to NCAA transfer rules. But not playing in games doesn’t mean she didn’t have a successful season. In fact, Cann and Mitchell both think she not only got better, but got more confident. 

“I thought that she had a great transfer year and got stronger and more explosive,” Mitchell said Monday following practice. “I think she got more confident in herself as a basketball player. She was really a standout in practice this morning. She had a great practice. I just love her attitude and love her effort. She gives it everything she has and has the type of attitude that she will do whatever she is asked to do. That is really powerful. I am excited for her. She will be very key to our success this year.” 

Cann, who averaged 7.0 points per game and shot at a .367 clip from 3 her freshman season at Cincinnati, says she definitely took advantage of her transfer season because the pressure was off and she had time to adjust to the new system.   

“I added some good weight and I am more confident in my game defensively and offensively,” Cann said when asked specifically what she has improved on since first stepping on campus. “It stinks sitting out, but it was also nice not having the pressure of having to get it all down in that practice to play the next game, because essentially I had all year to try to fit into the system and get comfortable and stronger. When they would leave on away trips, I would work out with the strength and conditioning coach, Coach (John) Spurlock.” 

Defensively, Cann says she is a lot better than she was at this point last season, although she still continues to work on staying in a good defensive position every day in practice. Another adjustment has been moving to more of a four position on the floor this season when UK goes four guards. 

“I have just been working on expanding my game from being more than just a shooter,” Cann said. “The coaches have moved me more to the four spot, which I have never really done in my whole career, so just getting more comfortable at that and doing whatever they need me to do.” 

With her transfer year successfully in her past, Cann says she is counting down the days to when she can finally take the floor for her home state school. 

“I don’t think people understand how excited I am,” Cann said. “We have less than two weeks until the first game, so I am counting down the days.”