Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Video/Transcript: UK Hoops Senior Players Makayla Epps, Evelyn Akhator Pre-Mississippi State Press Conference Interview ~ Senior Night


Video courtesy of kywildcatstv

Senior Guard Makayla Epps

On whether she has thought about Senior Night…
“Yesterday I talked to Jen (Smith) a little bit and I think that’s kind of when it really set in. People have been asking me, ‘Can you believe it? Are you sad? Are you happy?’ And I think my emotions are kind of everywhere in a sense. It’s just crazy to think how fast four years have gone already for me both on and off the court, and for Senior Day to finally be here, it’s a great feeling. I’m sure Memorial will be a crazy atmosphere tomorrow, great game atmosphere. I’m really excited about that, but overall I’m just going to go out there and have a good time and just treat it like another game, because that’s what it is in all reality.”

On what advice she would give to younger players…
“Never take it for granted and embrace it day by day. When I was a freshman, didn’t play a lot. Had to transition from playing all the time in high school to not playing a lot as a freshman. That was really hard for me at the start, but then I had to work to get my body in shape and work for what I wanted, which was playing time. And then to start off my sophomore year very well and then junior year very good and then now I’m a senior. It flies by. It really does. People say time flies when you’re having fun. So I guess I’ve been having a grand time while I’ve been here because it’s flown by.”

On whether any moment stands out in her career…“One of the best and most fun moments I’ve ever had being here at the University of Kentucky I would have to say—well it’s kind of two times, two-way street with Baylor. Four overtimes with Baylor, that game was incredible down in Dallas Cowboys Stadium. And then playing Baylor here I want to say maybe my sophomore year at Rupp Arena when I was on the court and I promise the floor was like shaking and it was so loud I couldn’t even hear myself think. So we had two really good games against Baylor and those are the two that stick out to me the most.”

On how rewarding this season has been…
“I tell them all the time: I feel like we’re shocking the world and showing people day in and day out that they might have counted us down and out at the end of April when we were losing a lot of players, and people thought that we weren’t going to succeed in the SEC or knock off teams that we knocked off in the nonconference, but we’re doing everything that nobody said we would and I’m very proud of the team for that. Very thankful for the players that tried out and wanted to be a part of this team even through all the turmoil. There’s a whole lot of love, like I’ve told people before. This is probably the most loving and caring team I’ve been on all four years of my career here, and you can just see that day in and day out. We work hard for each other and regardless of what anybody says about us, we know who we are, we know what we stand for and that’s what we go out and try to prove every night on the court.”

On how she has seen Matthew Mitchell grow as a coach this season…
“You gotta respect him. I don’t know many coaches that could still be standing on two feet after going through such turmoil he had to go through and deal with. It wasn’t easy on the players, but I can only imagine what the effect and impact it had on him as a head coach. I love him. He works hard every day. You can tell he loves the program. He loves us a lot. He wants us to succeed and be our best and I’ve definitely seen some growth just in different ways. He takes the time and spends time with us individually. He always reminds us how much he loves and cares about us, which is something players need to hear. Sometimes he gets on us but then he’ll bounce back right after that and tell us that he loves and cares about us. So it’s just little stuff like that. People don’t really get the chance to know him how we know him. They all just see him as a smiling, happy guy. That’s who he is, but then as our coach he’s got many different emotions and stuff with us, as it’s supposed to be. But hats off to him for getting us as far as we are today, just sticking by my side through all four years.”

On Taylor Murray’s emergence this year…
“I told Taylor and Maci (Morris) both last year, they played a lot of minutes as freshmen, so I don’t consider them underclassmen. I consider them both veterans. They played a lot of minutes. They were both out there during some of our toughest times last year and then they’re right back out there during our toughest times this year. But Taylor especially, she’s 5-6, 5-7 on a good day getting six to eight rebounds a game. That’s just incredible. With eight fingers, per se. So it’s really incredible to see her do some of the things she’s doing out there. She gets frustrated in practices. Like yesterday, she missed a couple layups in a row and she was like, ‘I can’t make layups.’ I said, ‘Tay, don’t worry about it. You’ll make them all tomorrow and have 10 rebounds and nobody will even know you practiced bad two days in a row.’ Just her confidence has skyrocketed through the roof. She wants to do well for me and Evelyn. She told me at the end of last year that she was going to send me out in the best way possible personally, and I love her for that. She plays every game like it’s her last, so I’m really proud of the growth she’s made and I’m very excited to see where her future takes her.”

On whether UK is capable of hitting enough outside shots to beat Mississippi State…
“You know, definitely. I just feel like sometimes our offense gets stagnant and that’s a lot on me because starting as the point guard, me and Taylor take that to heart whenever the offense isn’t clicking like it needs to be because we’re the two point guards on the floor at the same time. But we’re definitely capable. I’ve seen us do it in practice day after day after day. I get hot, Taylor gets hot, Maci and Makenzie get hot. So we’re very capable. We have all the shooting, outside perimeter scorers that we need. I just feel like on any given night it might happen and one of these last two games could be that night.”

On whether she looked ahead to this tough final two-game stretch…
“Of course at beginning of the season I looked at it and I was like, ‘The good ol’ SEC committee’s out get us.’ Just looking, I’m sure if it was anybody in the SEC you’re playing the top-two teams in the conference, two of the top-five, ten teams in the country. It’s not going to be easy, but I feel like they gave it to the team that’s going to handle it best, or is going to try to handle it as best as we can. Nobody would feel—I wouldn’t feel like my senior SEC season would be complete just playing – I can’t call them a cupcake team because nobody in the SEC’s a cupcake – but I’d rather play the two best teams in the league if I had to play any two teams in the league last.”

On how she hopes she’ll be remembered…
“I just want them to remember that I chose the University of Kentucky for many different reasons and that when I put that jersey on and there’s Kentucky on my chest, it really meant something. Some kids just go to colleges because that was their best offer or their highest D-1 offer or whatever it is or whatever they’re playing for, but I put that jersey on and it’s not just about me and my dad or that little legacy we got going on. It’s about, I was born and raised in Kentucky so this state really means something to me. And they showed me extreme, mad love over the four years and throughout my whole basketball career in general.”

On whether her father has given her advice about Senior Night…
“You know, his and my relationship, we don’t really spend a lot of time talking about everything. If we do talk about something, it’s about basketball. So his Senior Day, y’all remember, I was there. Don’t remember it, but I was there. He hasn’t said anything to me yet. I haven’t talked to him today. He played in his district game yesterday, lost by one in triple overtime. So I haven’t heard from him except the other day I told him all the senior stuff going on. But I’m sure before I walk on the court or whenever I see him, he’ll give me something. He always gives me something really meaningful, really worthwhile, so I’m sure I’ll get something good tomorrow.”

On how this team came together…
“It wasn’t easy. Not too many Division-I teams are going to have tryouts. So we had to go through that process, but he brought in some kids who are going to work. Especially Paige Poffenberger, for example. Morgantown, West Virginia, small, very undersized, but she works harder than anybody on the team day in and day out regardless of what her position or rank might be on this team. But like I said, I gotta respect those kids for even wanting to be a part of the program or come join our team when we lost all them players last year. Of course it was widely and largely talked about on a national level so everybody was reading it and hearing about what was happening. So for them to even want to come out and help us out, I thank and appreciate them greatly for that. But like I said, this team’s so well-knit, so close. There’s no bickering, arguing, bickering day in and day out about anything. We haven’t had to have any team meetings about behavior issues, attitude adjustments, none of that. And I’ve had some of that in recent years, but with this team we just don’t have do that. If there’s a problem, we settle it right then and there and that’s that and we go on and continue to try to get better.”

Senior Forward Evelyn Akhator

On Matthew Mitchell’s growth … 

“He has really grown a lot. Especially, reminding us that he really loves us. He always tells us that he’s here for us whenever we need him. That’s a huge growth.”

On how Kentucky become her home …
“The team, it’s much different than last year. We all love each other and the coaching staff is always here for us, whenever we need them. They have really made me feel at home. I don’t really miss home like last year, when I was laying down, crying and I was homesick. This time, they are always here for me, they talk to me, especially Makayla (Epps). She always gets on me, but we just talk.”

On the dish she made for Makayla …“I’m excited. At least she tried, this year. Last year, she wouldn’t. So I made her something just to try, and I think she liked it.”

On the last two games of the season …
“With Mississippi State, I don’t think they’re going to double team me because they have tall players. I think, just being there for my team. Emotional-wise, be there, lead in any way I can lead. Just produce in terms of rebounding and points, just be there for my team.”

On how she wants to be remembered …
“I would probably say my double-doubles. Even though I don’t see it as a goal, for me to get a double-double every game, but with my scoring and rebounding, I think I could do that. But I think I will be remembered for my double-doubles.”

On what she will remember most about Lexington and Kentucky …
“I always say first, it’s the fans. Being there for us, win or lose, they are always there, cheering us up and talking to us. Also, the school as a whole. And the team. I was in Florida at first, I never knew what community service was. Then I came to Kentucky. At first, I was like ‘what is this’, but then I got used to it because I know this is what I really want to do. This is my commitment. I really want to help people. I want to show them how passionate I am with them. This school really helped me with that, and that’s something I will never forget.”

On how your role has changed this season …
“I would start with me being vocal. That has really changed me and my leadership role. People being there for me, even when I make mistakes, they are always there for me to correct me and to be by my side and to push me to be the leader that everyone wants me to be. I think that has really impacted my life.”

No comments: