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Biology & Basketball

Q&A with Paige Poffenberger

Paige Poffenberger, a freshman from Morgantown, W.Va., began her University of Kentucky career this past fall as a biology major and Spanish minor. A National Merit Scholar and recent walk-on to the UK women’s basketball team, Poffenberger has a passion for volunteering, travel and art, and is a self- proclaimed nerd who loves biology and trying anything new. We recently caught up with Poffenberger to find out more about her transition to UK, life as a college athlete and her future plans. 


How did you end up at UK?

I had played basketball in the Lexington area before, so I knew that I really loved the town. That was the original reason I looked into UK. When researching UK, I really loved the study abroad opportunities and style of the core curriculum, so I went ahead and applied. When the university o ered me the Patterson Scholarship for my status as a National Merit Scholar, I had no questions about taking the opportunity. I also coupled that with acceptance into the pre-med living learning program and honors program in the Biology Department. Everything just seemed to point to UK being the right school for me.


Why did you choose to major in biology?

I love little kids and knew I wanted to work with them in some way. I volunteered in a children’s hospital in high school and fell in love with the pediatric aspect of medicine and working in a hospital. Studying biology and being pre-med is a great way to combine my interest in medicine and love for children. I also had a high school biology teacher who was incredible and aided in my desire to pursue biology.


What do you want to do with your degree?

I hope to go to medical school and go into pediatrics. In the future, I hope to spend time overseas working with a nonprofit whether it be for an extended period or for a few weeks each summer. 


How long have you played basketball?

I’ve been playing basketball since I was five or six years old. I was on the varsity basketball team three of my four high school years, and we won three state championships in a row. I was the starting point guard my senior year and had some Division 2 and 3 teams show interest, but I wanted to focus on going to school for academics and didn’t let being on a basketball team make the decision of where I was going to study.


How did you end up walking on to the UK women’s basketball team?

My mom saw an article about how many of the girls left the team last year and she assumed they needed players and encouraged me to contact them. This past summer was the first summer I didn’t play basketball and I missed it so much. I emailed the basketball staff and let them know I was going to be at UK on a full academic scholarship and would be interested in walking on the team. I was invited to tryout and then got a call to speak with Coach Mitchell. From there it was a slow integration of working me into the program. A month and a half a er the try-out, I was accepted on to the team. I never in a million years thought I would be playing basketball at the University of Kentucky!


Are you involved in any other organizations at UK?

I had plans of having a lot of time to get involved and that is hard now with my commitments to the basketball team. The basketball team o ers many volunteer opportunities, though. We go to the children’s hospital a lot as a team and this semester I will be part of a program going to a local elementary school and having lunch with students on Wednesdays.


What is the best thing so far about your freshman year at UK?

Traveling for the games. I’ve never been to Colorado, and Boulder was just breathtaking. We fly to every game, and it’s an unbelievable experience. We were in Alabama recently and the University of Alabama campus was insanely beautiful. Soon we will be going to LSU and Auburn. I’ll get to visit almost every SEC school by the time the season is over. I’ve traveled, but I’ve never traveled like this. These trips have definitely been the most special part of my freshman year. Either that or Big Blue Madness—it was crazy and seeing yourself up on the jumbotron was a surreal experience.


What are you most proud of?

I’m someone who is very much a perfectionist, so doing things that have a completely unknown set of challenges or outcomes is di icult for me at times. I was very unsure of the walk-on process itself, not to mention how I was going to handle school and a new town with basketball if it were to work out. Being able to find it within myself to juggle the year so far has been something that I’ve taken a lot of pride in. I was proud of myself for taking the risk and jumping in to this year.


How hard has it been to transition from high school to UK?

I’m about five hours away from home and my parents have visited to help me adjust to being away, but I haven’t been too homesick yet. I took many AP classes in high school, so I felt prepared for college classes. I love Lexington and the balance of the countryside with the city.
The biggest adjustment has been getting used to the speed of how fast Division 1 athletes move. The 6 a.m. li s were hard to get used to at first too.