By LARRY VAUGHT
After a run of player and assistant coach departures along with de-commitments from recruits, the Kentucky women’s basketball program got a needed boost from the signing of Memphis point guard Jaida Roper last week.
The 5-7 Roper averaged 13.2 points, 5.2 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game as a senior when her team set a school record with 27 wins. She had over 1,500 points in her career and helped Houston High School win 96 games in her four seasons. She scored 22 points in the state championship game as a senior and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
Roper didn’t know a lot about the Kentucky women’s program until recently after she was released from her commitment to Louisiana Tech. However, she knew plenty about the UK men’s program because she grew up a fan of coach John Calipari when he was at Memphis.
“I was a big fan of John Calipari. My favorite team was when D (Derrick) Rose was there,” Roper said. “It was a dream of mine to be at a school where he coached. I told coach (Matthew) Mitchell that before I even came to visit.
“This is all so surreal. People told me I could never do something like this because of my size. They said I would be a mid-major player because of my size. That’s why I love (former UK point guard) Tyler Ulis so much. He is a great point guard. A lot won’t say it because of his size, but he is. If he can do what he did, there’s no reason I can’t do it.”
She also is looking forward to playing with one particular returning player.
“I look forward to playing with everyone, but everybody has told me how much I am going to like playing with Makayla (Epps), so I can’t wait for that,” Roper said.
She’s also not worried about what has happened in recent weeks with the UK program.
“I have a lot of faith in coach Mitchell. I feel that he is a great person and even better coach,” Roper said.