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Keith Taylor: Mitchell, Barnhart mourn Summitt’s passing; UK’s heralded freshman class on campus

Pat Summitt made an impact in the coaching profession and fought Alzheimer’s disease with the same passion she exhibited on and off the basketball court.

Summitt, 64, battled Alzheimer’s for five years before her battle with the brain disease ended Tuesday in Knoxville. During her 38-year coaching career at Tennessee, Summitt won 1,098 games in her career and stands as the most victories in Division I basketball. She won eight national championships, including three straight from 1995-98 and back-to-back titles in 2006-08.

Matthew Mitchell began his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Pat Summitt

Matthew Mitchell began his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Pat Summitt

Kentucky women’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell began his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Summitt at Tennessee, before moving on to Morehead State and eventually Kentucky.

“We are saddened by the news of Coach Summitt’s passing,” Mitchell said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Summitt family and the Lady Vol family. She impacted millions of people in such positive ways. Pat gave me the incredible privilege to work for her and she taught me so much. I will be eternally grateful for that opportunity. All of us who learned from her should now make certain we pass along the lessons she taught. She will be greatly missed but her positive impact on the game of basketball and on the people she led will last forever.”

Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart worked with Barnhart as an administrator at Tennessee from 1996-98 and said summarizing Summitt’s impact “is impossible because she embodied all of the virtues you can imagine as a coach and a leader, from class to toughness to passion.”

“Working with her at Tennessee was truly an honor, as was competing against her. She was an incredible icon in not only the game of women’s basketball, but in sports in general. She was a trailblazer who helped pave the way for what women’s sports are today and we are eternally grateful to her. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the Summitt family and the Tennessee Athletics family. Pat will be missed.”

Cats on campus

Kentucky’s incoming freshmen class and returnees are on campus and preparing for next season. Kentucky assistant coach John Robic said on the Southeastern Conference summer teleconference Monday the newcomers and veterans have been impressive during summer workouts during the past three weeks.

“They’ve done a really good job with that so far this summer, and hopefully, that will continue,” Robic said. “Workouts have been going great. Guys have been in the gym. I think it’s a hungry group that really, really has gotten along very well right now, which is really encouraging to see it so early. And we’re excited about the rest of the summer and next year.”

Robic said the addition of De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones has given the Wildcats more size in the post.

“What it’s done is it’s made the workouts and the practices much more competitive, especially near the rim,” Robic said. “I think it’s going to help us become, again, another staple of what we have is a really, really good defensive team because of how long we are and that we’ll be able to challenge a lot more things at the rim. You have good speed, really good skill, and it’s a fine group to watch so far.”

Woods gets extension

Former Kentucky guard and Morehead State men’s basketball coach Sean Woods received a contract extension through the 2019-20 season earlier this week. Woods guided the Eagles to a 23-14 record last season and a runner-up finish in the College Basketball Invitational.

“This extension means a lot to me,” Woods said. “It shows that (Athletic Director) Brian (Hutchinson) and (University President) Dr. (Wayne D.) Andrews appreciate the work that we’ve been doing since I got here,” said Woods. “It shows that they believe in our plan and this is a major commitment to Morehead State men’s basketball.”

Woods has compiled a 75-63 record in four seasons at the helm and plans to build on the team’s success under his guidance.

“This extension shows that I’m here for the long haul and that I’ve bought in to what is going on here at Morehead State,” added Woods. “We are committed to creating a culture of excellence, both on and off the court, and that shows with the players and everyone associated with the program.”

Poythress to play in summer league

Kentucky senior Alex Poythress wasn’t among the picks in last week’s NBA Draft, but Poythress will play for the Orlando Magic in the Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League in hopes of landing a roster spot with the team next season.

Poythress will play for the Orlando Magic Blue squad, which also features Mississippi State’s Gavin Ware. Orlando opens summer league play against the Indiana Pacers on July 5. Orlando, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Indiana, L.A. Clippers, Miami, New York and Oklahoma City will play in the seven-day, 25-game event that runs July 2-8.

Keith Taylor is a senior sports writer for KyForward, where he primarily covers University of Kentucky sports. Reach him at keith.taylor@kyforward.com or @keithtaylor21 on Twitter

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