Figgs Named Assistant AD for UK Hoops

June 8, 2011

Press Conference Quotes

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Former WNBA veteran and Kentucky Miss Basketball, Ukari Figgs, will return to the Commonwealth as the assistant athletics director for women's basketball at the University of Kentucky, head coach Matthew Mitchell announced Wednesday.

Figgs, a native of Georgetown, Ky., comes to UK after spending the last two seasons as an assistant women's basketball coach under Sharon Versyp at Purdue.

"I'm very excited to return to Kentucky and be a part of the very successful UK women's basketball program that Coach Mitchell and his staff have established," Figgs said. "Being from Kentucky, I grew up a Wildcat fan and to have the opportunity to come back home and help this program continue its goal of winning a national championship is very exciting to me. I've kept up with the UK Hoops team for a long time and I've seen how Coach Mitchell has built UK into one of the best women's basketball programs in the country. I'm really looking forward to being a part of this staff and I'm ready to get to work."

Figg's primary responsibilities at UK will include team travel, scheduling, supervising all non-coaching personnel, management of the budget, facility coordinator, overseeing the student managers, supervising the team's NIKE account and special event management.

"I am extremely pleased to add Ukari Figgs to our basketball staff," Mitchell said. "Her experiences in the game of basketball will be a tremendous resource for our players and staff. I can't imagine hiring someone with better credentials than Ukari Figgs. I fully expect her to play a vital role in our future success."

Figgs played point guard for the Boilermakers from 1995 to 1999, and led Purdue to an NCAA National Championship in her senior season. The 5-foot-9 co-captain was named the 1999 Final Four Most Outstanding Player after recording game-highs of 24 points in the semifinal win over Louisiana Tech and 18 points against Duke in the championship game. As a senior, Figgs averaged 16.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists and was named first team All-Big Ten as well as Associated Press and Kodak honorable mention All-American.

Figgs, who was inducted into the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007, graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1999, and prior to taking an assistant coaching position at her alma mater, spent over five years as a production engineer for Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Georgetown, Ky.

Drafted in the third round as the 28th overall pick by the Los Angeles Sparks, Figgs also played five seasons in the WNBA. She was with the Sparks for three seasons, including one culminating in a WNBA Championship in 2001. Figgs played one season for the Portland Fire before they disbanded and was picked up by the Houston Comets in the 2003 Dispersal Draft. She played one season in Houston before retiring from basketball. For her five-year WNBA career, Figgs averaged 6.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.

Figgs should be no stranger to basketball fans in the Commonwealth as she led the Scott County High School girls' basketball team to a state title in 1995. She was named Kentucky Miss Basketball as a senior after averaging 18.6 points, 7.1 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 4.3 steals per game for the Cardinals.

She later went on to serve two seasons (2003-05) as an assistant coach with the boys' varsity basketball team at Scott County.

Figgs is married to Dale Morgan and the couple will reside in Lexington.

Press Conference - June 10, 2011

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening statement ...
"This is an incredible turnout for a women's basketball June press conference, nothing else is going on I don't think, but this is incredible. Which leads me to the reason Ukari is here today, because we are losing someone and I'd like to talk about her for a second. Pam Stackhouse and I came here to Kentucky eight years ago and she's been here every step of the way through tremendous growth in this program. She has served this program unbelievably well. She has been selfless and worked tirelessly. She has done whatever has been asked her throughout those eight years and it's sad to see her go. Words can't adequately be expressed what she's meant to women's basketball at Kentucky and as she heads to Bellermine as associate athletics director I know she will do a wonderful job. I know she will continue to support us and we wish her well and thank her for eight great years of service with UK Hoops."

On his first exposure to Ukari Figgs ...
"I worked for Carolyn Peck at Florida and I was a young coach at the time. I tried to pick Carolyn's brain as much as I could as she was a national championship coach at Purdue. I would ask her a lot about that team and a lot about that experience. In virtually every conversation Ukari's name came up and the conversation about what an interval part of that championship she was. When I moved here over the years and with Pam's connection (Pam was the assistant coach on that team) I got to meet Ukari and she and I formed a great friendship. She has been a great friend to Jenna and I and I've had great respect for her just as a person. She was back into coaching at Purdue and we stayed connected. When this opportunity opened there weren't many that could fit the bill for what we needed. I am very grateful today that she has chosen to join our basketball family. It's an incredible career she's had as a player and a coach, as a professional. We will benefit greatly from her contributions, so I welcome her here and am very excited about what she can contribute to the program.

"A few other things that are happening right now are that the players are back here on campus. We are welcoming all the returners who are going forward with us from the spring. Then we've added DeNesha Stallworth, who is a transfer and she's on campus from Cal-Berkley, so we're excited about her presence. We'll just get to work on getting stronger and more fit this summer. They'll be working on their academics obviously in summer school, we are running camps, and running all over the country recruiting. It's a busy time for us in women's basketball. The main reason we wanted to come out was to introduce you to Ukari Figgs and we are glad she's here. "

On how the two transfers can have an impact on the program ...
"They are both frontcourt players and we've been working hard to add talent in that area. Samarie is just a tremendously talented player in the frontcourt. She is really, really tough around the basket and can finish with contact and has a knack for scoring. She just has the level of talent that we feel like can help us get to where we're trying to be on the national level and the SEC as well. And then DeNesha has a very similar set of skills from an offensive standpoint. What's so great about the both of those is that they have already shown what they can do on the college level. DeNesha gets the benefit of a year in our program and being able to work on some of her individual skills. I think you'll have a very mature junior in two seasons that's been a first team All-Pac-10 selection. With a year or more of development I think she can be a great impact. Samarie will be eligible after the ninth or 10th game or after finals sometime in December and she will make an immediate impact on our team. Just adding that talent to our frontcourt was something we needed to do and I'm really grateful both of those players wanted to play at Kentucky."

On Amber Smith and her progress ...
"Amber is in good shape right now. We expect her to be full speed when the season starts. She looks great this summer."

Assistant Athletics Director for Women's Basketball - Ukari Figgs

On coming to work at UK ...
"This is obviously a great opportunity for me, both professionally and personally, to be able to come back home to Kentucky. It was good to see some bluegrass when I woke up this morning. It's just an honor for Matthew to welcome me to his staff and to be a part of Kentucky Athletics. I grew up watching the University of Kentucky. Many people that I have tried to emulate and have mentored me are Kentucky alumni. It's great to be back and be a part of this program and a part of what Matthew and his staff are doing."

On going into athletics after previously being an engineer ...
"I played professionally in the WNBA for five years and decided I wanted to use my mechanical engineering degree which I did for seven years at Toyota and then decided I wanted to get into athletics. Obviously growing up here in Kentucky, basketball is a big part of life here and I think having the opportunity to get back in athletics two years ago was a great opportunity for me and being able to come back and be a part of this University is a real honor."

On choosing to play at Purdue rather than UK ...
"There were a lot of things that factored into that, obviously wanting to get my engineering degree and wanting to have an opportunity to win a national championship. I thought Purdue gave me that opportunity. However, I think with the things that Matthew has been able to do at Kentucky, if he were here back in 1994 I probably would have made a different decision. I think it's great that there is a program here for young ladies from Kentucky to be able to come to and get a great education and have the opportunity to win SEC and national championships."

On what her role with the women's program will be ...
"That is something that Matthew and I are continuing to figure out. Pam Stackhouse's shoes are big shoes to fill but I'll be able to do the things from an administrative stand point as far as travel and doing things to take care of the team. Mainly, I'll be helping Matthew and his staff in any way that I can. I think the role I have will really help me to see a different aspect of athletics."

On her early beginnings in basketball in Kentucky ...
"Growing up here in Kentucky, basketball is something that a lot of kids grow up doing and I fell in love with it. I grew up playing with a lot of older players. When I was in middle school I was playing with college players which obviously helped my game develop a ton. I got to learn from those players what kind of work ethic you need to be successful both as a player and a person. I've been very fortunate to be surrounded by some really great people and I'm just really excited to be around Matthew and his staff. They are quality people and people that I think I can learn from tremendously from a professional perspective."