Maegan Conwright is the Swiss Army knife in Kentucky’s back pocket.
The 5-foot-8 sophomore has played nearly every position on the floor for the Cats. Sometimes playing two or even three different positions in the same game.
“Every game, I never know what position I’m going to play, and I have to get mentally ready for whatever,” Conwright said, “or wherever he wants to put me.”
Because of her defensive acumen, she’s played some guard, some small forward, a little bit of everything.
Since the second half of the Cats’ loss at Alabama, though, Conwright is back to a position she never expected to play at UK: point guard.
It was a spot she volunteered to play last season when Kentucky was short-handed because of injuries.
At Alabama, Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell turned to Conwright again to play the position she hadn’t played since the first two games of this season.
“She has a ways to go, but right now, with her explosiveness and her play-making ability, she gives us our best chance to win,” Mitchell said before his No. 13 UK team travels to Mississippi State to try to earn the win that will give them their first Southeastern Conference title in 30 years. “She’s a very good option for us at point guard.”
Senior point guard Amber Smith is able to play, but she admitted that she’s been dealing with foot and wrist pain much of the season. The foot pain specifically has kept her from being as explosive on both ends of the floor as she needs to be to run the team.
Fellow senior point guard Crystal Riley also has been slowed by injuries.
So it appears that much of the responsibility to run the team offensively could fall on Conwright as Kentucky prepares for the post-season, which starts next week in Nashville.
In fact, Mitchell said on Friday that Conwright probably will stay a point guard at least for the rest of this season.
“She needs to play point guard and she needs to play it well,” he said. “She needs to stop bouncing around from position to position.
“I’m beginning to think that’s her best position.”
The coach was specifically impressed with Conwright’s ability to direct the team against Vanderbilt on Monday night, her first big minutes as point guard since the season opener.
She wasn’t put in under the best of circumstances, either. The Cats were on a three-game skid, searching for answers, especially on offense.
After the 70-61 win over the Commodores, Mitchell had many positive things to say about Conwright, who had six points and two rebounds.
“I thought that Maegan played a beautiful game for not playing that position in months,” he said. “I thought that she was fantastic. I told her during the game — she had a couple of turnovers that she felt bad about — I told her, ‘With what was on the line tonight, coming off what we have come off and to be thrust into that position, I am very impressed.'”
Smith, who sat out the Vanderbilt game trying to get some rest before this final stretch of games, said Conwright did well.
“She got us in the offense, she pushed the pace,” Smith said. “Defensively, she got after it. … She did well, especially to be playing point guard late in the season in a big game.”
Conwright had eight points and a career-high seven rebounds in UK’s win over South Carolina on Thursday night. She played a game-high 34 minutes.
Conwright was clutch at the end of the game, hitting two free throws with 4.2 seconds left. Less than two seconds later, she swiped the inbounds pass, keeping the Gamecocks from getting a chance to send the game to overtime.
It hasn’t been the easiest sophomore season for Conwright, mentally or physically. During UK’s winter break, Conwright took a Kastine Evans elbow to the face and lost a top front tooth.
The dental office that serves UK’s athletes was off that week, so Conwright had to get a temporary crown put in and wait a week for the permanent crown to be placed.
“I was so upset,” she said. “I was crying, not because I was hurt, but because it was my front tooth.”
A week later, she took another shot to the face, this time getting several stitches over her right eye.
“My face,” she said laughing. “My poor face.”
She’s going to take those hits because of how aggressive she is on the defensive end, Mitchell said.
He just hopes she can be as tough mentally for the rest of this season as she has been physically.
“She struggles with mistakes, and they affect her worse than some players,” Mitchell said. “She just has to get past that. … The kid has a lot of ability.”