Mitchell & UK seeking to surpass expectations

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- In his inaugural season as Kentucky women's head coach, Matthew Mitchell inherits a program that returns four starters from last year's 20-win team. This year's squad is picked sixth in the always-tough 12 team Southeastern Conference, a mark that generally puts a team into the NCAA tournament and nationally ranked. But are expectations high enough? Not for Coach Mitchell.

"We're real excited about our team. We have a good group that can do something special," said Mitchell. "We have four seniors that came to Kentucky when they could have gone to more established programs at that time and now they have made us a viable contender on the national scene. Behind the strength of those four and the work ethic of the entire team has shown in preseason practice, we think we can be very good."

Senior Chanté Bowman

How good is very good? No specific team goals were given, and no predictions made. But when told his team was picked sixth in the Southeastern Conference, Mitchell quickly diffused any thoughts of that adding pressure on his team. "No, it doesn't add any pressure," Mitchell said. "Our expectations are higher than sixth that we put on ourselves."

Senior Samantha Mahoney

The four seniors will certainly be a key to the success of this season. Most are aware of three of the four seniors, all returning starters, Sarah Elliott, Sam Mahoney, and Chanté Bowman. But the fourth is a unique case. Chelsea Chowning played two years at Xavier, then transferred back to Kentucky to go to Pharmacy school. Mitchell explained that after working in UK basketball summer camps, "she came to me about a week before school starts and said, 'look, I have a year of eligibility left, and I like what is going on here. I would like to see if I could help make a difference on the team.'

Mitchell jumped at the opportunity. "She has such high character, and I have always been impressed with her as a player, and I thought that would be somebody that could come in and help us, and she has. She has been a great, great addition to our team, so we're proud that Chelsea is with us."

Starting with a solid base, four returning starters, including junior guard Carly Ormerod, and Chowning, Kentucky looks poised for a good run in 2007-08. But replacing those seniors--and their talent--will be a real key for future success, Mitchell recognizes.

"Kentucky is one of the most recognizable names in college basketball with our great men's tradition. We try to use that to our advantage (in recruiting). Mitch Barnhart and Dr. Todd have pledged the resources to make us a national contender. The Joe Craft Center is a visible sign of that commitment to women's and men's basketball, and is a great tool for us to use in our recruiting process."

Mitchell continued, "We're reaching the point where the success of Kentucky women's basketball makes us recognizable. This senior class has opened a lot of doors because they have seen a lot of success. The greatest impact we can have on recruiting right now is to be successful this year, and to win."

In addition to the four returning starters (three seniors and a junior), the Cats also return Eleia Roddy, a redshirt junior who sat out last season after averaging nearly nine points and seven rebounds a game in 2005-06. The Cats have advanced to postseason play three consecutive years, and have won 60 games in those three seasons. Add in a seasoned veteran in Chowning falling into place a week before school begins, and Mitchell appears to have all the ingredients in place for that success.

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