The UK Women’s basketball team lost freshman Kyvin Goodin-Rodgers to illness before their season began. Soon after, they lost senior Samantha Drake to injury. Today, head coach Matthew Mitchell announced senior DeNesha Stallworth will be out approximately 3-4 weeks.
He opened his press conference by saying “DeNesha Stallworth had an arthroscopic procedure this morning. A piece of articular cartilage was floating in her left knee, so she had a scope this morning that went well and that will sideline her for, we are thinking right now, about three-to-four weeks. Not the kind of news you want to hear, but we are glad it was nothing serious. Her knee just kept swelling after the Baylor game. Not quite sure when the injury took place. We have moved forward dealing with it and have a lot of confidence in our medical staff and we think she will be back good as new here in three-to-four weeks. That was a bit of tough news for us, but we are very excited about the opportunity we have to go to DePaul. They are a very quality basketball team. Certainly when you lose someone like DeNesha everybody has to rally and really come together and work hard and pick up the slack that’s created by her absence. I think that our team is certainly capable of doing that and I think they will want to do that. We had a good practice this morning and working hard trying to get ready for what will be a very well-coached DePaul team. They have good athletes that can really spread the floor and put pressure on your defense. We will have to be sharp and prepared and really tough to go up and get a victory at DePaul. We are looking forward to that challenge.”
Stallworth is an All-American candidate and is on the watch lists for every major national award, including the Naismith Trophy, the John R. Wooden Award, the Senior CLASS Award and the Wade Trophy.
Mitchell was asked if Stallworth being out could potentially help the team out down the road, he said, “I think any time you have to focus and do a better job and sort of raise your level of play, I think it gives you an opportunity to be better and stronger when she comes back. I do think you have to believe that if you are going to remain positive and move forward positively. Everybody in the country has some type of adversity that hits them in different ways. It’s like I told our team, I think we’re as well-equipped to handle it as anybody because we’ve had some kids who have sacrificed to come here that maybe don’t play as many minutes that they might at other places, but they are very good very players. We have 10 really good players available for us tomorrow night at DePaul. We have to embrace this challenge as an opportunity to get better.”
The California native had 16 points, 9 rebounds and 4 steals in her 33 minutes during the Baylor game. She is second on the roster in scoring, averaging 14.2 points and 7 rebounds per game. She is currently shooting 56% from the field. She leads the Cats in steals with 16 through 9 games. The week the Cats took on Bradley and Louisville, Stallworth was named SEC player of the week for her performances.
Kentucky heads to Chicago to take on DePaul tomorrow. This is the first game the Cats will play since their 4 OT thriller and win against Baylor on Friday. Mitchell said while the attention brought by that win is good, he wants his team to move on from it and stay focused. “I think for our team, we’ll always have to make sure we’re staying very humble and very hungry and very focused on the fundamentals. When you get out to an undefeated record and you’ve beaten a couple top 10 teams, you must stay focused on the job at hand. We didn’t play a perfect against Louisville and we didn’t play a perfect game against Baylor and you can’t let the result, you can’t let the outcome influence your behavior moving forward. It’s been so nice around town because the game against Baylor was so exciting and people around town are complimenting us, but we’re almost a week removed from it and people are still talking about it. As a player and as a coach you have to move forward and understand what’s real. It’s real that we won that game, but it’s over and done with. It can’t benefit us anymore until Selection Monday; that is the only time it can benefit us anymore. In and of itself, the lessons we can learn from it can help us and the confidence we maybe got, but we have to make sure we understand that last Friday night won’t help us a bit on this Thursday night and we have to be ready to play a really good DePaul team.”
The Cats are currently ranked #5 and #6 on the respective polls. With Stallworth out, the projective starters with be #3 Janee Thompson at PG, #50 Azia Bishop at center, #23 Samarie Walker at forward, #32 Kastine Evans at guard and #13 Bria Goss at guard. This is the fourth time the Cats will face DePaul in school history; the Cats have never lost to them. Both sophomore Janee Thompson and freshman Linnae Harper are from Chicago and played in high school with DePaul guard Chanise Jenkins (soph.). The game will air on Fox Sports 1 at 7:00; if the Cats win they will improve to 10-0.