‘You don’t just plug and play.’ Kenny Brooks discusses construction of UK women’s roster.

New Kentucky women’s basketball head coach Kenny Brooks joined Darren Headrick for the inaugural edition of “The Kenny Brooks Show” on Monday evening ahead of the 2024 WNBA draft.

During his hourlong radio slot on the UK Sports Network broadcast, Brooks dove into several topics, from the warm welcome he and his family have received from Big Blue Nation to the difficulties of constructing a roster in today’s game, particularly one that can compete in a Southeastern Conference that boasts the last two national champions in South Carolina (2022, 2024) and LSU (2023).

Here’s a breakdown of what Brooks discussed Monday night.

Capitalizing on momentum

Brooks recognizes the growth of women’s basketball, particularly at the collegiate level.

He took the opportunity to bring up the “staggering” viewership numbers, and discussed the importance of capitalizing on the game’s popularity.

“Obviously you have some fantastic players who have taken the sport to another level,” Brooks said. “And so we need to capitalize on that, not only from a team standpoint, but just from the universities, anyone that’s involved with women’s basketball, capitalize on this momentum so we can carry it further.”

Brooks said his passion for women’s basketball has been fueled by the fact that he’s a “girl dad.”

“Any time you have daughters and family members, you’re fighting,” Brooks said. “You’re a champion for the cause. You want them to have the same opportunities that they deserve, that their counterparts have in young men. And so, every year we fight that fight, we fight that battle and we’ve watched crowds grow and grow and grow. And for people to really recognize women’s basketball, appreciate it and enjoy it. It’s something that’s very, very special to my heart. Because they deserve it. They deserve it.”

A warm welcome

It’s safe to say that Big Blue Nation is happy to have Brooks in Lexington.

“It doesn’t matter where I go and it doesn’t matter if I have on Kentucky or if I don’t,” Brooks said. “If I can wear a different color, a neutral color. There are a lot of people who are recognizing us and they’re coming up to me and my staff and wishing us well. And we need that support, and we’re looking forward to it. Obviously the fan base is tremendous, but we’re looking forward to getting indoctrinated into the culture of Kentucky basketball.”

Brooks is pleased that fans are excited about the future of the program, and said the community support is essential to building “a championship culture.”

“It’s not just build a championship team, we want to build a championship culture,” Brooks said. “And to do that it takes more than just the coaches, it takes more than just the players. It takes, you know, the old saying is ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ and it’s gonna take a village to raise a championship culture. And we need that, so it’s a very exciting start for us. Fans are very, very knowledgeable, very knowledgeable about what’s going on in day-to-day operations in our office. But that’s exciting because you want people to be passionate about what you’re representing.”

UK’s potential and roster construction

Brooks understands that, in joining the SEC, he’s entering a conference with some heavy hitters and a unique style of play. Brooks called the SEC “one of the best conferences in the country” and said “you have to implement your style and impose your will on some other teams.”

“We’re not going to come in and change a lot of what we do,” Brooks said. “We’ve proven that it can be successful against a lot of different types of basketball teams. It’s what we’re comfortable with and go with what you know. We’re looking forward to just adding a different element to the SEC and a different element that people will have to guard, as well.”

At his introductory press conference, Brooks called Kentucky women’s basketball “a sleeping giant.” He echoed that sentiment during his radio show on Monday night, and said constructing a roster in today’s game is “a different kind of difficult.”

“I took over Virginia Tech eight years ago and there was a transfer portal,” Brooks said. “You could transfer, but, the majority of time, when you transferred, you had to sit out. So there wasn’t a lot of movement. And now, with the NCAA allowing freedom of movement for these players, you really can transform your roster in a year.”

However, Brooks went on to stress that success in the transfer portal isn’t just about signing the best available players, and that diligence is necessary when navigating the portal. He also noted that the Kentucky roster had already undergone changes ahead of his arrival.

“When there’s a change, there can be movement,” Brooks said. “And in our case, it’s been a lot of movement. There were several kids that were in the portal before we got here. And so, you can’t be reckless. Just because there’s someone in the portal, you have to make sure it’s a good fit for you. And, at this time, at this stage, it’s a little bit difficult.”

Brooks likened recruiting the transfer portal to speed dating, in that coaches have a short amount of time to attempt to both identify and secure the best fit for their individual program.

“You don’t just plug and play,” Brooks said. “You can look at someone else from a different school, just because they average 10 points a game doesn’t mean they’re going to average 10 points a game for you. And you have to see they’re willing to sacrifice, what can they bring to your program. And if you find the right fit, then you’ve got to be able to jump on it. But you can’t wait too long because they have many, many options.”

Brooks emphasized that he and his staff want to build Kentucky based off of relationships. As of Monday night, Kentucky has signed a pair of Virginia Tech transfers in graduate All-America point guard Georgia Amoore and 6-foot-5 freshman center Clara Strack, and received a verbal commitment from 6-foot-4 redshirt sophomore forward Teonni Key from North Carolina.

Brooks also confirmed that sophomores Cassidy Rowe and Saniah Tyler elected to remain with the Wildcats, as opposed to searching for another opportunity via the transfer portal. He also mentioned that the duo has aided in Brooks’ transition, and been with the staff while recruits have visited.

Rowe, a 5-foot-5 point guard, averaged 2.6 points, 1.0 rebound and 1.3 assists in 17.4 minutes per game this past season. Brooks commended both her positive attitude and the love she has for UK.

“I asked her what her expectations were, and she said, ‘I just want to be a part of something special. I love Kentucky,’” Brooks recalled. “And when you have someone like that, who just really has a lot of passion for the place that they are representing, they can be a very positive influence on you. So I was tickled with the conversation, and I think she’s going to help us. To what capacity, obviously, remains to be seen, but I know she loves Kentucky.”

Tyler, a 5-foot-6 guard, averaged 10.2 points and 1.8 rebounds in 26.8 minutes per game this past season. Brooks said Tyler has “been terrific,” and, like Rowe, has a great attitude.

“Willing to do a lot,” Brooks said. “I could hear it in her voice that she really wanted to be a part of this program.”

Staff changes

Brooks also discussed the two recent additions to his coaching staff, associate head coach Lindsey Hicks and assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Radvile Autukaite.

Brooks called Hicks, a four-year assistant under him at Virginia Tech, “a phenomenal coach.”

“A great mentor to our young people,” Brooks said. “A great coach, great recruiter and an even better person. And so we’re very lucky. I’m very lucky to have her on our staff.”

Autukaite, affectionately known as “Coach Rad,” first joined Brooks’ staff as a graduate assistant in 2017 and worked her way up before being named an assistant coach ahead of the 2022-23 campaign, the season the Hokies reached the Final Four. Originally from Lithuania, Brooks credits Autukaite with his teams’ international success on the recruiting trail.

“Does a phenomenal job internationally,” Brooks said. “Look at our roster, we’ve got some sprinkles of international and she’s been responsible for that. Just done a tremendous job ... and just has a wonderful sense for recruiting, but has a wonderful basketball mind.”

UK commit Amelia Hassett, a 6-foot-3 forward out of Eastern Florida State College, will be the second Australian to sign with the Wildcats for the 2024-25 season, alongside Amoore. Clara Silva, 6-foot-7 center from Portugal, currently playing in Spain, flipped her commitment from Virginia Tech to UK on Sunday afternoon.

Brooks also confirmed that Tim Clark, his longtime chief of staff, has followed him from Blacksburg to Lexington. Clark, just 37 years old, has been with Brooks since his James Madison tenure.

“He’s been with me for almost 20 years of his life,” Brooks said. “He was my manager when he was at James Madison. I hired him into a similar role at James Madison, he came with me to Virginia Tech. He’s been my guy at Virginia Tech and he followed me here to Kentucky. And so he knows me as well as my wife knows me, and he just does a phenomenal job. He’s very passionate about his job, and I think that everyone’s going to love him and get to know him. And I think the girls are going to get to know him and love him. He just really is there for them.”


Brooks also used Monday’s platform to make another rallying cry for Big Blue Nation to “invest” in Kentucky women’s basketball.

“NIL, it’s very, very important.” Brooks said. “And it’s real. It really is. I know it kind of burst onto the scene, we really didn’t know what to expect. But it’s a whole new monster now, and it’s real. And if you want to be in the game, you have to be able to be in that space.”

Brooks recently collaborated with UK Athletics partner Club Blue, an NIL collective, on a promotional video to ask fans to donate to Kentucky women’s basketball’s NIL efforts. Brooks brought up Club Blue on Monday, doubling down on his call to arms.

“We need your help,” Brooks said. “If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right. You’ve got to be able to go out and attract the best of the best. And all across the landscape in college athletics right now it’s something that everyone’s taking advantage of, and we have to be right there at the top in this game. So I’m looking forward to working directly with Club Blue. I hope you guys are willing to invest because it could be for the future of Kentucky basketball.”

Kentucky women’s basketball adds former top-10 recruit battling back from injury

6-foot-7 international prospect will follow Kenny Brooks to play for Kentucky basketball

‘It’s time to be a Wildcat!’ Kentucky women’s basketball lands top-40 national prospect.

Kenny Brooks lands first recruiting commitment since taking over UK women’s basketball

Kentucky women’s basketball lands 6-foot-5 freshman center in transfer portal

New Kentucky women’s basketball coach Kenny Brooks sends a message on the recruiting trail

All-America point guard transfers to Kentucky as part of fast break for Kenny Brooks era

Breaking down Kenny Brooks’ Kentucky contract details. Here’s how much he’ll make.

Kentucky’s Eniya Russell announces transfer decision. She’s staying in the SEC.

Ajae Petty, UK women’s basketball’s leading scorer, announces transfer to Ohio State

Transylvania women’s basketball hires from within to replace Juli Fulks as head coach

‘I needed that next step.’ Juli Fulks prepares for new challenge in leading Marshall.

Marshall hires Transylvania’s Juli Fulks as new women’s basketball coach