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Former Illinois State assistant coach Danielle Santos, who helped lead the Redbirds to their first undefeated home season in program history, has been hired as an assistant coach at Kentucky, UK head coach Matthew Mitchell announced Tuesday.
Santos, who played for Mitchell at the University of Florida while Mitchell was an assistant with the Gators, joins the Wildcats staff after spending two seasons at Illinois State. Santos also helped lead the Redbirds to four-straight WNIT appearances, including three straight trips to the semifinals.
Santos joins current assistant coaches Matt Insell and Shalon Pillow to make up the four-person staff.
"This is an exciting time for UK Hoops," Mitchell said. "Danielle is a versatile coach with many talents but it's her high character that stands out and makes her immediately valuable to our program. Communication and strong relationships are absolutely essential in our program. Danielle is an excellent communicator and a strong builder of relationships. She has the right kind of energy we need on our staff and I look for her to make a positive impact on the future of UK Hoops. We are happy to welcome her as the newest member of the UK Hoops family."
Santos and the Redbirds defied expectations in 2011-12, finishing second in the Missouri Valley Conference after being picked to finish sixth in the preseason poll. Santos helped lead Illinois State to a 13-5 league mark and a fourth-straight trip to the Women's National Invitation Tournament.
In her first season with Illinois State, Santos helped lead the Redbirds to their third-straight trip to the WNIT semifinals, and their first undefeated home regular season in program history.
Santos got her coaching career started in 2006, spending four years as an assistant coach at Hofstra University. Santos helped guide the Pride to two 20-win seasons and two appearances in the WNIT.
In her first season with the Pride, Hofstra won a school-record 26 games and advance to the quarterfinals of the WNIT. Under Santos' tutelage, nine Hofstra players earned All-Colonial Athletic Association honors, and four went one to play professionally overseas. Santos also served as the Hofstra recruiting coordinator in her final two years with Hofstra and signed the No. 41 recruiting class in the nation in 2008-09.
A four-year letter winner at Florida from 2002-06, Santos was recruited by Mitchell and was a part of his ninth-ranked recruiting class. Santos started in 76 of her 107 games as a Gator, qualifying for the NCAA Tournament in 2004 and 2006, and the WNIT in 2005. Santos led the Gators in assists and steals as a sophomore and finished her career ranking sixth at Florida in free-throw percentage (.782), ninth in 3-point field goals made (80), 11th in assists (265) and 13th in steals (162).
Santos earned her bachelor's degree from Florida in exercise and sports sciences, specializing in sports management, while minoring in business administration and education. Santos was a three-time Southeastern Conference (SEC) Winter Academic Honor Roll selection, a 2004 CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Second Team selection, and a 2005 Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sports Scholar.
"I am extremely proud and honored to be a part of this Wildcat family and the Big Blue Nation," Santos said. "I have great respect for Coach Mitchell and his staff and how they've been able to build Kentucky to one the top programs in the country. The SEC is a special place to me and returning to the league to reunite with Coach Mitchell is an incredible opportunity and I can't wait to get started."