Five UK Hoops Players Set to Graduate Saturday

May 9, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky women’s basketball seniors Kastine Evans, Bernisha Pinkett, DeNesha Stallworth, Samarie Walker and former Wildcat Brittany Henderson are set to participate in commencement exercises Saturday, May 10 in Rupp Arena.

Evans, a 5-foot-8 guard from Salem, Conn., will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business management and a minor in African American Studies. She aspires to continue playing basketball overseas and attend graduate school. Evans is a two-time Southeastern Conference Community Service Team member, while also being named to the prestigious Allstate WBCA Good Works Team. Last season she received UK’s prestigious Society of Character honor and the Darrell A. VanMeter Community Service Award. On the court, she played and started in 34 of UK’s 35 games this season, and averaged career bests in points (8.2), 3-point field goals made (41) and attempted (121) and field goal percentage (.368). Evans was a key cog in helping lead the Wildcats to their third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA Tournament. For her career, Evans ranks second all-time in UK Hoops history with 139 games played. In the classroom, she has earned a 3.77 grade point average and has been on the Dean’s List seven times and is a four-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll. She led the team again in the fall with a perfect 4.0 GPA and was named to the Capital One Academic All-District 2 First Team by CoSIDA.

“I never thought this day would come as a little girl,” Evans said. “I always knew I was going to go to college because that is what my parents instilled in me, but having this moment, knowing I am accomplishing this goal means so much to me. I want to thank Coach Mitchell and the entire staff for giving me an opportunity to get my degree and play Division I basketball at the best university in the world. I also want to thank Mr. Barnhart and the athletics department for making women's basketball a priority, and of course I have to thank my family and friends for their unconditional support throughout my career.”

Henderson, who played at UK from 2009-13, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management with aspirations of becoming a chef. She will attend the Art Institute of Atlanta Culinary Program in July. She saw action in 135 career games with 38 starts and was part of the all-time winningest class in UK Hoops history with a 111-30 (.787) overall record, including a 64-3 mark at home. She helped UK claim an SEC regular-season title for the first time in 30 years in 2012, advance to the SEC Tournament championship game three times and the NCAA Tournament four straight seasons, including three Sweet 16 and three Elite Eight appearances.

“It will be a very special this weekend as I get to walk across the stage with my teammates,” Henderson said. “It's been a great time here at Kentucky. I want to thank my parents, my sister, the coaches who have supported me throughout the years, Tiffany Hayden for staying on top of my academics and my teammates. This truly is a special place.”

Pinkett, a 5-7 guard from Washington, D.C., will receive her bachelor’s degree in family science with a minor in health promotion. She will enter graduate school in Atlanta in the fall with aspirations of working with mentally challenged children. Pinkett played in 131 career games as a Wildcat, scoring 597 points to go with 240 rebounds and 104 steals. Following her first season in Lexington, she was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team when she averaged career highs in points (7.0), rebounds (2.8), assists (39) and steals (35). During her career she helped guide UK to three Sweet 16 and two Elite Eight appearances. Off the court, Pinkett was the star of the popular segment “Guitar Tip of the Week” on The Matthew Mitchell Show.

“Graduating from college is one of the biggest accomplishments in my life,” Pinkett explained. “I am so proud of myself and the person I have become because of my time at UK. This will open so many doors for my future and help me on my road to success. I would like to thank my high school coach for taking me in the ninth grade and telling me from day one that I was going to get a scholarship and I was going to graduate from college. Everything he's done for me has finally paid off. I also would like to thank Coach Mitchell and staff for trusting me and giving me the opportunity to come to Kentucky and be a part of the Big Blue Nation. Lastly, I want to thank the amazing fans for all of the support during my time here.  It was an awesome time.”

Stallworth, who graduated in December with a bachelor’s degree in family science with a minor in African American Studies, aspires to be an American Sign Language interpreter. The 25th overall pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft, led the team in field goal percentage (.524), field goals made (151) and steals (44), while ranking second in scoring (12.5), rebounding (6.9) and blocked shots (35). Stallworth, a native of Richmond, Calif., scored in double figures 21 times this season, including nine straight to end the season. She earned multiple honors throughout her senior campaign including, WBCA Region 3 All-America Team, SEC All-Tournament Team, All-SEC Second Team by the league’s coaches and All-SEC honorable mention by the Associated Press. Stallworth finished her career with 1,740 career points (812 at UK) and 871 rebounds (417 at UK). She ranks ninth on Kentucky’s all-time double-doubles list with 15. The 6-3 forward is part of a senior class that finished with a record of 109-31, which ranks second all-time in program history.

“I'm so proud to be in the position to graduate from Kentucky,” Stallworth said. “I want to thank my whole support system and especially my parents who stood by my side through the good and bad. I wouldn't have been able to do it without them.”

Walker, a native of West Carrollton, Ohio, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in merchandising, apparel and textiles with aspirations of becoming a celebrity stylist. After transferring to UK from Connecticut after one semester, Walker finished her career seventh on Kentucky’s all-time charts in rebounds (777) and blocked shots (96) and tied for fifth with 20 career double-doubles. The 6-1 forward tallied 942 career points (837 at UK) and 876 rebounds (777 at UK). Walker was named to the All-SEC Second Team and SEC All-Defensive Team by the league’s coaches in 2013. In 2012, she earned NCAA All-Regional Tournament Team honors. In the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Walker set a new school record for rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game with 14. Her season average of 8.8 rebounds per game ranked third in the SEC.

"This day is extremely special for me,” Walker said. “I am one of the first on both sides of my family to graduate in four years. I am very proud of myself for making it this far and I know there are a lot of great things ahead. The biggest thank you goes to God and my amazing family. I would also like to thank my coaches, professors, other support staff, fans, friends and teammates. I’ll always be a part of the Big Blue Nation."

In seven seasons under head coach Matthew Mitchell, 100 percent of his players in their final season of eligibility have received their degree.

“Graduation day is always so emotional for me because I get to see the dreams of our student-athletes coming true,” Mitchell said. “I’m so proud of Bernisha, Brittany, DeNesha, Kastine and Samarie. They’ve done the work on and off the court to make this program where it is today. A special thank you also goes out to all the people behind the scenes who help our student-athletes achieve their goals - the parents, the assistant coaches and everyone in CATS.”

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