By LARRY VAUGHT
With the success that All-American Rhyne Howard has had in two seasons at UK, expectations are already astronomical for incoming freshman Treasure Hunt — who has a higher recruiting ranking than even Howard has and is the highest ranked player coach Matthew Mitchell has signed at UK.
“With expectations you can look at a player’s size, speed, agility, explosiveness and athleticism and know where they are on scale of physical talents and gifts,” Mitchell said. “I just like to go from sort of a blank canvas approach for any player, including Treasure.”
Mitchell sits down with every freshman player multiple times to inquire about what they want to become as a player, person and student. That won’t change with Hunt once he gets her on campus in late July.
“She is a supremely talented prospect that we believe has gifts and talents to make a big impact as a freshman,” Mitchell said. “But you couldn’t tell with Victoria Dunlap, Adia Mathis, Maci Morris and now with Treasure just how good they would be. You just don’t know until it happens.
“Adia was ranked as the 125th best player in country in one recruiting service and 67th in another. She had unbelievable talent and as a freshman was able to handle practice and the role she settled into. She became an All-American, two-time SEC Player of the Year.”
That led him to remember Jennifer O’Neill, the first McDonald’s All-American he signed. She had a “difficult” freshman season before becoming a “top level” player who made the WNBA.
“Both Adia and Jennifer had different rankings, different struggles but both went on to be great players and pro players,” Mitchell said. “It’s just hard to say how any player, no matter how highly ranked, will do until you see how they handle their freshman year.”
The 6-1 Hunt has the right pedigree. She also was a McDonald’s All-American and is a top 10 recruit. She averaged 24.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game for Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga. She’s a five-star signee with experience in some of the nation’s most prestigious events.
“We are going to work really hard to make sure she thrives as a freshman,” Mitchell said. “If she plays up to her abilities, she can make an incredible impact and we hope she does. But you have to give any freshman, even one as talented as Treasure, a chance to get here and see how she adjusts before you proclaim that she can do this or that.
“Treasure was a significant recruiting event for us. We are planning on her being a major player and know she has all the tools to do that. But you just have to be patient and give her time to adjust and everybody adjusts at a different pace.”
Mitchell is having to do some adjusting of his own now, too. He had surgery recently to remove a subdural hematoma after blood was found on his brain. Mitchell’s wife Jenna Mitchell said he fell and suffered a concussion nearly four months ago and later blood was found on his brain.
“Grateful to God he is with us and still the beset dad and husband we could have on our team,” his wife, Jenna, posted on Facebook Saturday.
(Mitchell made his comments about Hunt in an interview before he knew he would need surgery.)