When Chaminade Julienne graduate Samarie Walker transferred from Connecticut to Kentucky, her dreams of national titles and recognition could have ended.
Kentucky didn’t have nearly the women’s basketball pedigree of UConn, which has dominated the sport for the last decade.
But Walker finds herself a junior on a team ranked in the top 10 and becoming a national story.
“I didn’t think it was possible,” Walker said. “It wasn’t even my main focus at the time. But once our coach put it in our minds that we could be that type of team, that’s what we tried to reach for.”
Kentucky is 18-2, 6-1 in the Southeastern Conference. The Wildcats were undefeated in conference play and ranked No. 5 in the country until Thursday when they were upset at South Carolina 55-50.
Until that game Kentucky had won 17 in a row and had emerged as a national title contender. Walker is an important cog, averaging 9.4 points and leading the team with 8.2 rebounds per game.
Walker and fellow transfer DeNesha Stallworth form a formidable front-court tandem. Stallworth, a transfer from California, is second on the team in scoring (14.2). The two are best friends.
“It started when we were on the practice squad,” Walker said. “We couldn’t play yet because of transfer rules, so when the team would travel we would go out to lunch together. We got a lot closer and would talk about why we transferred. We talked about our families and began to develop a relationship.
“It helps us on the court because we can read each other.”
Walker transferred from UConn after one season. She experienced immediate culture shock but now says Lexington reminds her of her hometown, West Carrollton.
“It’s not too big, but not too small either,” she said. “You feel a connection to the people here. The biggest difference between UConn and Kentucky are the accents.”
While she’s busy tending to her own career, Walker has also kept an eye on the University of Dayton women’s team, which has been in the top 20 most of the season. She said she remains close with several Flyers against whom she competed in high school.
“I’ve always been close to Coach (Jim) Jabir,” she said. “They are definitely doing very good and putting themselves on the map. I wish them continued success.”
Drake in the wake: Rachel Drake (Fairfield), a freshman swimmer at Wilmington College, helped the 200 medley relay team finish second against Mount Union on Jan. 19. Drake finished with a time of 2:12.62.
Turner in the lineup: Allie Turner (Greenon), a junior at Morehead State, has started 12 of the team’s 19 games. She is averaging 5.5 points and 1.2 rebounds per game. She is second on the team in assists with 38. She had 17 points against Austin Peay on Jan. 14 and has scored in double figures in her last three games.
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