Davion Mintz says last season was an “extremely crazy time” not only for Kentucky basketball but almost every team. That’s a big reason Mintz decided to stay in college for a sixth season and come back to UK for a second senior year.
“Having a fan base like UK can change a lot of things. Having that support behind you for one more year was a huge part in my decision (to return) but so was proving to NBA scouts what I can do. I understand I am a late bloomer,” Mintz said. “I want to prove I can go out as a winner.”
He thinks his role on this year’s team will be more unique than last season when he primarily played shooting guard before running the point the last two games.
“This kind of reminds me of my freshman season (at Creighton) when we had a lot of upperclassmen,” Mintz said. “Not to this degree (like at UK this season). I think that experience factor is going to be huge and pay off for this team.
“It is extremely different from last year when we had a lot of new guys come in. These guys (transfers) are also new but these new guys have seen different things and played at a high level. It is going to be fun and extremely competitive. It is a good culture to be part of as we try to win a lot of games.”
Mintz said he has worked a lot on finishing at the rim better as well as drawing more fouls and making more free throws.
“This summer I worked on all aspects of my game from footwork to getting my jump shot off faster. Overall, just become a better all-around player,” he said. s
During a Kentucky football camp in early June, Kentucky coaches treated Knox Central sophomore Gavin Chadwell “very well” and made a big impression on him.
“Coach (Vince) Marrow walked me through a lot of footwork drills and stuff,” said Chadwell. “In one-on-one drills, I held my own very well against some really good players.”
Kentucky was already impressed with the 6-5, 235-pound Chadwell because he was offered a scholarship in May based on his 2020 season when he had 38 tackles, four quarterback sacks, and five tackles for loss. He also started at tight end where he caught three passes for 53 yards.
Chadwell is also a talented basketball player who averaged about 9 points per game as a freshman when he was named MVP at the 13th Region Tournament won by Knox Central. He had 17 points and six rebounds in the regional title game win over North Laurel.
Chadwell grew up a Kentucky fan in southeastern Kentucky and says he has been “surrounded by Kentucky fans and stuff” his whole life.
“Dad is a big UK fan. He won’t have much of a preference about where I go, but don’t doubt about him being a big UK fan,” Chadwell said.
He says his scholarship offer showed that it was just not big school players who could get SEC scholarship offers.
“It is kind of wild to think about getting an offer as a freshman,” he said. “I think they just saw my capability and kind of jumped on it.”
Chadwell spent time this summer working on his hip flexibility that would help him both at tight end and on the basketball court. He went to several football camps but did not play any AAU basketball.
The Knox Central sophomore says fans still mention the UK offer to him constantly.
“It’s a very big UK area. People tell me all the time it would be better for me to go to UK,” Chadwell, age 16, said. “My brother even got season tickets to UK this year.”
Going into Friday’s game against Bourbon County, Chadwell has six catches for 144 yards and three scores in five games. He also has 32 tackles, including 28 solo stops, in those five games.
Knox will face a district showdown Oct. 8 against Corbin which is led by UK commit Treyveon Longmire (11 catches for 150 yards and two scores, seven tackles in five games) and UK target Dakota Patterson (18 catches for 254 yards and two scores, five tackles in five games).
“It’s not fun by no means being in the same district with Corbin but anything is possible,” Chadwell aid. “If we come and play like we can play, we have a very good chance.”
Not many were expecting Knox Central to win the 13th Region basketball title, either. The favorite was North Laurel and Reed Sheppard, a major UK basketball target in the 2023 recruiting class, even though Knox Central had won the two previous regional crowd.
Chadwell said he never imagined he would be tournament MVP.
“I don’t know the last time a center or power forward won it, much less a freshman,” he said. “I stepped up in places we needed on defense and rebounding. I put up solid numbers.
“I feel like people forget about us a lot and then we play teams and show out in basketball. We have got the same team back, so I think we can do it again.”
Chadwell admits he spends a lot of time each summer playing 3-on-3 basketball with friends but doesn’t see himself playing college basketball.
“Football is a much bigger love and I would 100 percent prefer to play defense in college because of my ability to read the play,” Chadwell said. “But you never know about basketball. I won’t close any doors. I think I am even going to run track this offseason because coaches think it might a lot with my speed. I am not positive but think it could be good for me.”
Chadwell is more old school than most his age. He prefers board games over video games.
Chadwell, who also has a football scholarship offer from Eastern Kentucky, is not going to rush the recruiting process.
“Me and my parents all agree that you never know what might happen and who could offer me,” Chadwell said. “I am going to hold out to my senior year 100 percent (to make a decision).”
What if he did pick Kentucky?
“I think my family would be more excited than me probably,” Chadwell laughed and said. “Dad kind of freaked out just when I got the UK offer. My mother cried. I know just about everybody in the county would be behind me so there’s no doubt that could all play a big role with my decision.” s
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and his staff cannot look ahead but UK fans can — and have been doing that. While most Kentucky fans don’t expect the Cats to win at Georgia, all are hoping it can happen.
However, pay attention to what South Carolina coach Shane Beamer had to say about Georgia’s defense after the Bulldogs stymied his team’s offense in a 40-13 win before UK won 16-10 at South Carolina.
“They’ve got, like, a hundred five-star football players on their defense,” Beamer said about Georgia. “They have a defensive lineman that weighs 340 pounds (Jordan Davis) and runs better than everybody on this (Zoom) call.
“They’ve got five-star defensive backs. They’re big and physical and fast. I mean, other than that, they’re really freaking good.
“That’s why they have the top defense in the country, (and) they’re hard to run the football on, so there wasn’t some magical scheme they came out with. They’ve got five-star recruits everywhere and they play really physical.”
Kentucky plays at Georgia Oct. 16.
They came to Kentucky together as freshmen and Blair Green says her and Rhyne Howard have been “best friends since stepping on campus.” Now the two are set to start their senior basketball seasons.
“We are really close. We live together. We both know each other well,” Green said.
Green is a Kentuckian from Harlan County. Howard came to UK from Cleveland, Tenn. Howard is an All-American and considered one of the best, if not the best, players in women’s college basketball. Green has been more of a role player at UK. However, they connect on and off the court.
“We have a lot of fun. It’s nice to have her to talk to even if we are not talking about basketball. We talk a lot about life,” Green said. “She has not only matured mentally but also physically. I am excited to be by her side and it has just been awesome seeing her grow like she has.”
Green says Howard is also very different off the court than what fans or even media members might think.
“Rhyne is a big goofball. She is always joking with me,” Green said. “She is quiet and kind of sneaky but I love her.”