By LARRY VAUGHT
She’s a top 10 national recruit and has participated in USA Basketball events. However, Kentucky signee Treasure Hunt always had one other dream.
“My whole life I dreamed of making the McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic,” she said. “Now that I have done it, it’s a bit unreal. I guess when I get to Chicago (for Jordan Brand) and then Houston (for McDonald’s) it will really get to me.”
Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Chattanooga, Tenn.) had a 22-1 record going into play this week. One of Hunt’s teammates is 6-7 Syracuse signee Kamilla Cardoso of Brazil, who will also play in the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic.
“We have a good team and the players are all easy to play with,” Hunt said. “We don’t just have to rely on one person to win.”
The 6-2 Hunt is a versatile player who can make jump shots, finish in traffic, disrupt passing lanes with her length and runs the court well. She believes her shooting and ability to get to the basket are her best traits.
“I am a big guard and it is easier for me to play defense and get blocks and steals now. It’s easier for me to score because I am bigger than most players guarding me and can use my body against them,” Hunt said.
Is her defense ready for the demands UK coach Matthew Mitchell places on that end of the court?
“I am not going to lie. Toward the beginning of last season my defense was not as good as it is now. I keep working on it to get better. I stand up too much on defense. I’ve been working on getting low like coach Mitchell wants,” Hunt said.
Hunt would like to be part of a dynamic duo at UK with former AAU teammate Rhyne Howard, the consensus national freshman of the year for the 2018-19 season and a likely All-American this year who was recently named SEC Player of the Year. As good as Howard has been — she got to 1,000 points quicker than any UK player except Valerie Still — remember that Hunt is rated higher.
“Rhyne was a huge impact on me because me and her were always together when we were little. It’s going to be really fun to play with her again,” Hunt said. “She’s a big guard, too, a really strong guard who knows how to use her body to go through contact. Our chemistry has always been great. We knew how each other players and what we were both best at and tried our best to help put each other in the right spots.”
Mitchell understood the role Howard played in getting Hunt to sign with the Wildcats over a host of other big-time offers that included South Carolina, Louisville, Baylor, Mississippi State, Tennessee, UCLA, North Carolina State and Auburn.
“I definitely think that them growing up together and playing a lot of basketball together, that bond certainly didn’t hurt us,” Mitchell said. “That made her probably look at us maybe a little bit harder than she would have, but I think it was just our overall atmosphere here. She felt really comfortable and she has tremendous, tremendous upside as a player and so we’re excited about her.”
Kentucky was Hunt’s last visit and she said it “just felt totally different” on the UK campus than other places she visited. She even texted her mom — who coached her and Howard in AAU — that she was ready to commit. Her mother told her not to say anything until she got home to make sure she didn’t change her mind.
“I sat in with the team and coaches and it just really clicked and that’s why I love Kentucky,” Hunt said.
The love affair didn’t end after she signed. Mitchell came to Chattanooga to see her get presented her McDonald’s All-American jersey on Senior Nigh for the boys team (the girls play a national schedule and did not have a senior night game).
“That meant a lot to me that he took the time to come,” Hunt said. “He came just to watch me walk and get that McDonald’s jersey and then left without even staying for the boys game. He was just there for me.”
Her name, obviously, is a bit different but one she has embraced. She said her sister had a best friend named Treasure and people would call them “Treasure Hunt” when they were together.
“My mom said if she had another girl she would name her Treasure,” Hunt said. “So I just enjoy it but I get asked about it a lot.”