When Maddie Scherr’s name appeared in the transfer portal after the former Ryle High School star’s second season at Oregon, Kyra Elzy turned to a vintage Kentucky women’s basketball program tactic to woo her.
The UK head coach deployed the full-court press.
Said Elzy: “Maddie, in particular, I was like ‘Listen, the people in the state of Kentucky want to see you at (the University of) Kentucky wearing blue. I don’t know what we need to do, but we are going to make it happen this time. You said no the first time (in recruiting); the second time we are going to get a yes.’”
On Wednesday, at UK’s annual women’s basketball media day, one of the most decorated high school players produced in the commonwealth in the 21st century made her first official appearance in UK blue and white.
“I came home,” a smiling Scherr said inside the Joe Craft Center. “And I am really excited to be home.”
When Scherr officially wears the No. 22 UK jersey in a game for the first time on Nov. 7 against Radford, she will become the most impressively credentialed, in-state high school player to play for the Wildcats since Makayla Epps, the former Marion County star, graduated from Kentucky in 2017.
As a junior in 2018-19, Sherr was the Kentucky Girls’ Sweet Sixteen MVP after leading Boone County’s Ryle High School to its first state championship.
Following Sherr’s senior season, the 5-foot-11 guard was named a McDonald’s All-American, a participant in the Jordan Brand Classic, Kentucky’s Miss Basketball and the winner of the Donna Murphy Award for excellence on and off the court.
After both Scherr’s junior and senior seasons, she was chosen Gatorade’s Kentucky Player of the Year.
So it was a significant blow to UK’s recruiting efforts when Scherr turned down the Wildcats (and many, many others) to cast her lot with Oregon. She joined fellow McDonald’s All-Americans Angela Dugalic, Te-Hina Paopao, Sydney Parrish and Kylee Watson in a Ducks recruiting class that was so lavishly hyped that the players became known as “Oregon’s Fab Five.”
Along with the Kentucky coaching staff, Scherr said her parents, Rick and Amy Scherr, might have had the hardest time with her decision to head to the far west.
“My poor mom, she was so heartbroken that I was going so far away from home,” Scherr said. “(My parents) are more excited than anybody just to have me so close and be able to go to every game.”
As a player, Scherr’s calling card has long been her all-around game. She left Ryle as the school’s all-time leader in points (2,291), rebounds (1,094), assists (679), steals (535) and blocks (233). “I’ve always been that type of player, to just do whatever I can to help my team win games,” Scherr said.
In her two seasons at Oregon, Scherr showed some of her well-rounded skills. Last season, Scherr led the Ducks (20-12) in assists (102) and steals (46) and averaged a more-than-respectable-for-a-guard 3.7 rebounds per game.
What Scherr did not do in Eugene was shoot the ball well. As a freshman in 2020-21, she hit 28.8% of her field-goal tries. Last year, she made 34.4%.
“I honestly believe it was all about a mental game,” Scherr said of her shooting. “It’s crazy, because after two years, I have really realized how much of it is mental. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, if you don’t feel like you are in a system or program where people have that confidence in you, then you are not going to come out successful.
“That was another one of the reasons I had to transfer. I just have so much more to give than that.”
As UK looks to replace the scoring lost when Rhyne Howard (20.5 points per game) graduated to the WNBA and Dre’una Edwards (16.9 points) transferred to Baylor, it will need all hands on deck.
So it’s a positive that early reports from UK practices are that Scherr’s shot has looked good.
“I think she’s really come into her shot. She’s shooting great,” said Kentucky senior Blair Green, a former AAU teammate of Scherr’s with Kentucky Premier. “She’s always been like, pass first, trying to make everyone else look great, get everyone else shots. But she’s really looking for her shot here, which I think is awesome.”
It might have taken a little longer than originally hoped, but Elzy said having Maddie Scherr in Kentucky blue and white will have been worth the wait.
Said Elzy: “I told her that if I had a quarter for everyone who asked me if we were going to get Maddie Scherr, I would be rich. Maddie brings a competitive spirit (with) a high basketball IQ. I think the people of the state know what she can do and they look forward to seeing her.”