After a monster recruiting year that went sour with the departure of star recruit Sade Buley in the fall of 2004, the Mickie DeMoss train was temporarily delayed. Although the team showed significant improvement from years past, advancing to the Women's NIT Final Four, DeMoss still lacked that star to perhaps take Kentucky over the hump.
That star was Christian County High School star Arnika Brown.
"I wanted to go somewhere where I could help build a program, not go to a program that was already built," Brown told the Lexington Herald Leader following her commitment. "You really can't get no better than making history. That's what we're going to do."
Brown has been making history since becoming a full-time starter as an eighth-grader for the Lady Colonels. She's not only led Christian County to an unbelievable 139-17 record, but the 6-foot-2 senior has a career 21.5 point and 9.5 rebound per game average.
Heading into her final season, Brown will not only extend the scoring record she currently holds in the state of Kentucky, but is more than likely heading for the school's first Ms. Basketball award, as well as her fourth-straight all-state honor.
"She's been very blessed," coach Don Dillard said on Arnika. "There have been good players (in Kentucky), but there aren't too many players that have been recruited like Arnika or been in the spotlight like Arnika. She's had it since the first day she started here."
And now the attention will be even brighter, as she's already being counted on as the savior to UK Women's Basketball program. A program that continues to improve with each passing week.
"That's okay," Brown said. "I look forward to that challenge. I knew that when I committed to Kentucky."
After landing one of the top recruiting classes in the country in 2004, Mickie DeMoss and her staff landed more solid contributors in 2005, including two state Ms. Basketball's in Carly Ormerod (5'7 PG) from Louisville and Laqwesha Gamble (6'0 SF) from Winter Haven, Fla.
"LaQwesha is a tremendous athlete and we feel very fortunate to have her join our program," DeMoss said. "She runs the floor extremely well and can play the three and four positions. She has the potential to help us right away."
Because of two players (Shane Andrus and Kasi Galloway) not being able to qualify, and the opportunity to sign one of the best players to come out of the state in history, all eyes were on Mickie in '06.
To say the least, she's delivered.
With Brown in the bag and fellow Christian County (Ky.) teammate Lydia Watkins in as well. The Wildcats are all but done in-state. Watkins, whom averaged over 20 points a year ago as a 6-foot-1 forward, was instrumental in landing Arnika and could be the x-factor in Brown's success.
With arguably two of the state's top three players in teh bag, the class looks to be dynamite. To cap off Mickie's tri-pod of commitments is Britney Edelen, arguably the best athlete of the group and by far, the most underrated commitment to date for DeMoss. Edelen is an athletic freak that indicates she can dunk a basketball, despite being 5-foot-9. Last year, as a junior, Edelen averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds while playing swing guard.
With one scholarship left, Mickie is still on the prowl for a complementary fourth signee and arguably the final piece to the puzzle. The only name that has drawn mention is Janae Stokes, a 5-foot-9 guard out of Georgia. Former UK forward, Sade Buley, whom was the star of Mickie's dynamite first class, is eligible to return to UK this recruiting season and DeMoss could allow her back on the team following her quick stint at junior college.
If things don't work out for 2006, look for Mickie to eat a scholarship and work on 2007, where she's already landed an on-campus visit from Alison Jackson, a 5-foot-11 small forward and Deverereaux Peters, a 6-foot-2 power forward from Fenwick HS in Chicago (Ill.). Both players are considered national top 25 players according to All-Star Girls Report.
Needless to say, DeMoss and Co. have gone and done it - the train is back coasting through and the momentum created from their NIT run, has translated into more victories off the court as well.