DeMoss Brings Excitement To UK Women's Basketball

FAYETTEVILLE -- Kentucky only went 11-17 under first-year coach Mickie DeMoss last season, but still managed to raise some eyebrows in women's basketball circles.

DeMoss, a former longtime assistant at Tennessee, learned well the mantra of UT coach Pat Summitt about the importance of marketing.

The Wildcats ranked first in the nation in improved attendance with 5,182 fans per game, and ranked second in the Southeasern Conference with 4,000 season tickets sold.

A month before the first game this season, Kentucky had already sold 3,600 season tickets.

DeMoss' first recruiting class was dubbed the "Fab Five," and includes 6-foot-6 center Sarah Elliott and 6-3 power forward Eleia Roddy.

No wonder UK fans are discovering that basketball isn't just a men's preserve.

"We've done a great job of getting the word out," DeMoss said. "Billboards, mail-outs ... I'm out in the community quite a bit. The fans have bought into the excitement."

Kentucky returns starters Sara Potts and Angela Phillips, along with four other letterwinners. Plus, junior guard Nastassia Alcius becomes eligible after transferring from Dayton in 2003.

The Wildcats took their lumps last season, as DeMoss ran the whole show for the first time since becoming Florida's first women's coach at age 22 in 1978, just one year out of college at Louisiana Tech.

"I had to call all the shots," DeMoss said. "As an assistant coach you go into practice with a certain degree of intensity; you can blend in and out of practice. But as a head coach, everyone is looking at you all the time."

Instead of sitting at Summitt's elbow and suggesting plays (sometimes vigorously) as she did for 19 seasons, DeMoss had to sell her own system to the UK players.

"It took a few weeks for them to buy into how hard we were going to practice every day," DeMoss admitted. "There's a tempo, a work ethic, and a man-to-man defense that I brought from Tennessee."

The Wildcats tried to run last season, but didn't have enough depth.

"Two of our kids played 40 minutes and were dead by the end of the season," she said.

But with the infusion of the Fab Five freshmen, Kentucky's running game should work better.

"That's what this league is known for -- running, and pressure defense," DeMoss said.

Potts, a 6-foot forward who averaged 16.8 points and 6.5 rebounds last season, will start, but DeMoss said, "No other spot is locked down."

Angel Phillips, the returning starter at point guard, is being pushed by Alcius and 5-10 freshman Samantha Mahoney.

"It took me two months to learn to pronounce Alcius' name," DeMoss joked.

Jennifer Humphrey, a 6-3 junior center, is healthy again after missing the final three months of last season with an esophagus problem.

Until Elliott and the other freshmen gel, the Wildcats will rely on Potts to lead the way.

"Sara has great athletic ability, and can be so much more than a 3-point shooter," DeMoss said. "She was our second-leading rebounder last year and our leading scorer in SEC play (18.4 points per game)."

Potts made Second-Team All-SEC last season, and is a preseason choice to repeat that honor.

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