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OCTOBER 28, 2009

WEDNESDAY

WWW.KYKERNEL.COM

BASKETBALL PREVIEW

A

CELEBRATING 38 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

Patrick Patterson, a

junior forward, has been Mr. Everything for the Cats the last two years, but he has never played in the NCAA tournament.

He’s back

(can they help get him to the NCAA tournament?) Eric Bledsoe, a

speedy freshman point guard, hopes to be the next UK great to wear No. 24. He’ll follow in the footsteps of Kelenna Azubuike, Antoine Walker and Jamal Mashburn, who were all forwards. Bledsoe is expected to provide a stable backup at point guard.

DeMarcus Cousins, the No. 2 recruit according to Rivals.com, averaged just under a point per

minute he played in the McDonald’s All-American Game. He’s expected to help Patterson in the post.

John Wall,

already considered a candidate to be picked first overall in next summer’s NBA draft, is already garnering preseason honors and is one of the most-hyped UK recruits in recent memory. Wall is expected to be the point guard that finally gets Patterson his tournament berth.

Daniel Orton, a 6-foot-10 forward from Oklahoma, originally committed to UK under Billy Gillispie, but honored his commitment even after John Calipari arrived. Orton will help Patterson on the boards.

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PAGE A2 | Wednesday, October 28, 2009

PHOTO BY BRITNEY MCINTOSH | STAFF

Junior forward Patrick Patterson returned to UK for his third season after putting his name in the NBA draft. He hasn’t played in an NCAA tournament game to this point in his career.

Degree, NCAA tournament keep Patterson from NBA By Ben Jones bjones@kykernel.com

Jon Hood has never played a game with Patrick Patterson. But if you ask the freshman guard about the junior forward, his eyes widen. He shakes his head when talking about his teammate, like he can’t believe there’s a player — or a person — quite like Patterson. “Pat’s the guy. Pat’s amazing,” Hood says, slowing as he speaks. It’s almost as if he knows that he has to be perfect when speaking about Patterson, that anything else would be a disservice to his teammate. “The way he is on the court and the way he is off the court, the person that he is … All of us look up to him, whether we will admit it or not. Pat’s worked so hard at this, he’s worked so hard to get where he is and he deserves every moment of this.” Work. That’s a word that’s thrown around a lot when teammates talk about Patterson, who averaged 17.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks last year en route to first team AllSoutheastern Conference honors. He spent the summer in San Francisco with freshman forward Daniel Orton getting in even better shape. When other players limp out of the training room after practice now, Patterson is still on the treadmill. There’s nothing about Patterson that doesn’t impress teammates. His leadership skills, ability in the classroom and work ethic go beyond any measureable basketball statistic. But there is one thing about Patterson’s résumé that’s been less-than-impressive in his first two seasons. He entered the program as one of the highest-rated recruits to join the Cats in recent memory and was immediately counted on to be a starter. He responded, setting the pace in the post even as a freshman before a stress fracture in his ankle stopped him. He missed the rest of

the season — including the Cats’ first-round exit in the 2008 NCAA tournament. Patterson missed the 2009 tournament too, as the Cats floundered midseason and limped to a 22-14 record. His failure to play in the tournament is something he hears about constantly, and it’s one of his biggest motivations “I know he wants to get on that big stage,” Hood said. “That’s what Pat thrives for, is that big stage. If we can do anything to get him there, we’ll do as much as we can to get him there.” Patterson missed two games with another ankle injury last season. He said he prays for a healthy season, but even that pales in comparison to his desire to make it to the NCAA tournament. “The No. 1 goal I want is making it to the NCAA tournament,” Patterson said. The NCAA tournament looms large in what will be Patterson’s third — and possibly final — year at UK. He’s expected to graduate after this year, and could enter the NBA draft for next summer with a successful season under his belt. Patterson tested the NBA waters after last season before deciding to come back for his third year. But UK head coach John Calipari wouldn’t make it that easy on him. The two met, and Calipari wanted to know why he was coming back. “He told me he wanted to graduate in three years,” Calipari said. “He’d never played in an NCAA Tournament and he regretted that, and the third thing he said was, ‘I need to play in your style of game if I’m really going to be a good pro, because right now I’m playing under the basket and I know I’m not going to do that at the next level.’ ” With that, Patterson returned. He’ll be expected to be one of the leaders on this year’s See Patterson on page A3

Recruits aim to revive program By Metz Camfield mcamfield@kykernel.com

They’re the transformers, the rebuilders and the great hope. Whatever you want to call them, freshmen superstars John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe are four of the most high-profile recruits to come to UK in years. UK basketball fans were quick to call them the stars of what they considered to be the best recruiting class of all-time. The analysts said they might be right. “It’s added pressure to the program, but we still have to work,” Cousins said. “No matter how good they say we are, we still have to work.” The comparisons to Michigan’s “Fab Five” came quickly and should follow the Cats from the first game to the last. With four of the top 25 recruits in the country, according to Rivals.com, the comparison came naturally. “We’re a part of history now, I guess you could say,” Cousins said. “They’re making us heroes before we even play a college game. It’s added on pressure, but none of us are worried about it. We’re just ready to get going.” One concern for the young group of freshmen was how well they’d get along. With so much talent in one class, many believed personalities would clash. But the four said they constantly hang out together, even off the court. UK head coach John Calipari likes the fact that the players all live together under the same roof. Calipari said it forces the team to work out its differences and talk things out like men.

Wall

Cousins

Orton

Bledsoe

Cousins said everything’s been going well so far and he’s not surprised they’ve gotten along. “That’s just the type of people we are,” Cousins said. “There’s no selfishness, there’s no arrogance, no big head, there’s none of that. We’re all just cool, down-to-earth people.” Bledsoe, Cousins and Wall have become particularly close. “They call us the three amigos,” Wall said. “We’re pretty close, even if it isn’t us three together, we try to help all the other freshmen out to bring them together.” One relationship everybody is especially concerned about and eager to see how it develops during the season is that of Wall and See Recruits on page A3


SEC rebounds from bad reputation By Metz Camfield mcamfield@kykernel.com

It was laughed at, ridiculed and wasn’t well-represented in the NCAA Tournament. In the eyes of many college basketball analysts, the Southeastern Conference was just plain bad last season. However, UK’s players won’t all agree with that sentiment. They said it was underrated, pointing to the star players on various teams like Jarvis Varnado at Mississippi State and Tasmin Mitchell at Louisiana State. The lack of respect from across the country in 2009 is starting to turn around, and players and coaches are starting to get recognized by the people that follow the sport closely. “It’s amazing,” junior forward Patrick Patterson said. “I was listening to all the critics from these past two years and how they say the SEC is down and all of a sudden they say the SEC is up and probably one of the best conferences this year. It’s just great for everybody here.” Last season the SEC sent a mere

three teams to the Big Dance. LSU, a No. 8 seed, was the only team to advance past the first round. The Tigers lost in the second round to eventual national champion North Carolina. The SEC had three teams with recruiting classes ranked inside the top 25, according to Rivals.com, including UK’s No. 1 class. Though currently under investigation by the NCAA to determine his eligibility, Mississippi State recruit Renardo Sidney is expected to contribute immediately. Kenny Boynton at Florida, John Jenkins at Vanderbilt and Reginald Buckner at Ole Miss are also all ranked inside the top 30, in addition to UK’s four recruits in the top 30. “I look at Tennessee and they still have all the great players, from Scotty (Hopson) to Tyler (Smith) and (Wayne) Chism,” Patterson said. “They still have all the great players and Florida as well with the new personnel they have coming in, they still have Alex Tyus there. So I’m just tremendously happy that all these great teams are being recognized like they should.” In 2006, the SEC had two schools

PATTERSON

RECRUITS

Continued from page A2

Continued from page A2

team on and off the court, and he’ll be the guy the Cats look to for a high-percentage shot late in close games. Already one of the most seasoned players as a junior, Patterson is used to the responsibility. The same young roster that makes Patterson one of the oldest players on the team has brought with it new expectations. To Patterson, there’s nothing wrong with that. He’s embraced the responsibilities and expectations laid upon him from the day he arrived on campus. This season will be no different. “We want to be one of the greatest teams to play here at Kentucky and we want to be that type of historic team and that type of team remembered by everybody across the world and especially in Kentucky,” Patterson said. “We want to be undefeated, we want to win the national championship, we want to win everything we can win and we want everybody to be as successful as they can be.”

Bledsoe. As the No. 1 and No. 3 point guard recruits in the country, according to Rivals.com, many critics were quick to say the two couldn’t co-exist. Those concerns haven’t proved true to this point, though things can change quickly in the season. “I read what everybody said about ‘why am I thinking about going there? Why is he thinking about going there? It’s the same school, you all are some of the top two point guards in the country,’ ” Wall said. “We just look at it as he’s a competitive person, I’m a competitive person. When I stepped on the scene for pick-up in the summer I just said, ‘Let’s make each other better,’ and ever since that day we’ve just connected like we were broth-

online

make the Final Four, and Florida won it all in 2006 and 2007. Since then, Tennessee is the only team to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. In that same two-year span, eight Big East teams have gone to at least the Sweet Sixteen. With the additions of young head coaches like Anthony Grant at Alabama and Mark Fox at Georgia, more optimism arises. Grant and Fox both excelled at smaller schools in Virginia Commonwealth and Nevada, respectively, and made the NCAA Tournament almost routinely. The addition of new coaches and high-profile recruits has the players excited for a rebirth of SEC basketball. “The SEC is definitely becoming one of the best conferences in the country,” said senior guard Ramon Harris. “A lot of people talk about the Big East and stuff like that, but I think the SEC, even through the last couple years, has really been a solid conference … A lot of top-scale recruits are coming to the SEC teams and it’s only going to make the competition better.”

PHOTO BY BRITNEY MCINTOSH | STAFF

From left, star freshmen John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe joke around at men’s basketball photo day. ers, like we came from the same mother. It’s great to have him and I can’t wait to play with him.” And the upperclassmen can’t wait to play with the young guns. After failing to make the NCAA Tournament a year ago, a first since 1991, the Cats are ranked by many analysts in the top 10, and are among the favorites to make it to

Check out the Kernel’s SEC basketball picks

Indianapolis for the Final Four. For seniors like Ramon Harris, that’s a welcome change. “The thing about our incoming new players is that they always listen,” Harris said. “There’s some things you can’t tell them and they’ll have to go through a game for themselves, but they try to listen as much as possible.”

www.kykernel.com

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 | PAGE A3


PAGE A4 | Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The third time’s the charm Harris, Stevenson cope with third coach in four years By Ben Jones bjones@kykernel.com

Senior guard Ramon Harris remembers watching an ESPN special on Tennessee basketball in his senior year in high school. A player for the Volunteers was talking about having to play for three coaches in four years, the last of which was current Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl, then in his first season with the program. “I was just sitting there like, ‘Man, I could never go through that,’ ” Harris said to himself at the time. “Now I'm sitting through it.” Fast-forward to 2009 and Harris and senior forward Perry Stevenson are the first four-year scholarship players for the Cats to play under three different coaches since 1929, when John Mauer, Basil Hayden and Ray Elkund each coached in a four-year span. Mauer was succeeded by legendary coach Adolph Rupp in 1930. Neither Stevenson nor Harris ever thought they would be in a situation like this. Both expected to be playing under former UK head coach Tubby Smith. “That's who you sign with,” Stevenson said. “But you just have to take everything as it comes.” Now playing under UK head coach John Calipari, who succeeded Billy Gillispie in March, Stevenson and Harris have developed a special bond. Senior guard Mark Krebs, who transferred into the program, keeps them from being the only seniors, but they are the only ones left from their recruiting class.

STAFF FILE PHOTO

Senior forward Perry Stevenson will be playing under his third UK head coach this season.

Jodie Meeks left the program and was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks and Michael Porter left the team to be with his family after last season. Both players have had plenty of ups and See Coaching on page A5

Dunlap finds her voice as a leader By Nick Craddock sports@kykernel.com

Victoria Dunlap, a junior forward on the UK women’s basketball team, led the Cats in four statistical categories last season. But she failed to find her voice as a leader. “I’d say in the past I wasn’t any kind of Dunlap leader, I just played the flow of being a freshman, being a sophomore, letting the older people and upperclassmen do that,” Dunlap said. “Now that I’m an upperclassman, it’s just going to have to be (leading by) example, vocally and me being an all-

around kind of leader.” As the Cats’ leading returning scorer and rebounder, Dunlap realizes she can’t be content to shirk the pressure-packed moments in games, especially having lost teammate and frontcourt sidekick Eleia Roddy to graduation last spring. This year, Dunlap, who also announced her presence as a defensive dynamo by leading the Cats in blocks and steals last season, will look to regularly deliver the clutch performances her coaches and teammates expect from her. Dunlap has already made it clear she is making strides in developing her leadership skills to complement her physical talents on the court. “(Dunlap’s) always been able

to lead by example from day one she stepped on campus,” said UK head coach Matthew Mitchell. “She has great personality, but she hasn’t always been able to channel that into vocal leadership. I give her a lot of credit for working at it. Just the fact that she recognizes she has to do that has me optimistic she’ll be able to get that goal accomplished.” UK assistant coach Shalon Pillow, who works closely with the post players, has been particularly impressed with Dunlap’s ability to take the incoming freshmen post players, Brittany Henderson and Anna Cole, and guide them along before the start of their rookie campaigns. “In most places, the hardest See Dunlap on page A5

New coach gives sophomore a second chance at UK The last time DeAndre Liggins stepped off a basketball court, he just wanted to see his family. Liggins’ freshman year started off poorly and didn’t get any better as each game came and went. By season’s end, the relationship between Liggins and former UK head coach Billy Gillispie was JAMES PENNINGTON beyond repair. After the Cats’ Kernel season-ending loss columnist at Notre Dame in the National Invitation Tournament, Liggins needed to get away. “That day, I remember sitting there frustrated,” Liggins said. “I didn’t know what was going on. I just wanted to be home with my family because I knew how it was going to go.” One of the most curious figures of last year’s team, Liggins even told the Danville Messenger-Advocate he would not return to Lexington if Gillispie did. So the 6-foot-6 guard went home to his family in Chicago. Gillispie was fired. A few days later, John Calipari was hired. Faced with a decision of whether or not to come back, Liggins sought his family’s advice. Go back, they told him. Do everything right this time. Liggins is back, aiming to move past some of last year’s episodes. Perhaps the most well-known was against Kansas State, when Liggins refused to re-enter the game. He seemed to suffer all year because of it. Not all of Liggins’ problems were because of Gillispie. When he was given a chance, he seemed unwilling to slow down the pace of his game to fit that of his team. This year, the Cats around Liggins are faster. Much, much faster. Word is, John Wall may be one of the fastest players in college basketball. By Wall’s estimation, fellow freshman Eric Bledsoe doesn’t lag behind much (although Bledsoe flipflopped their ranking). And then there’s Liggins. “DeAndre, oh man,” Bledsoe said. “He’s real smooth with the ball. He can change gears and get to the basket so fast and easy.” Bledsoe added that he thought not

only could he and Wall share floor time, but Liggins could be out there with them. Three point guards? “All three of us understand the game well enough as point guards and just as players, we could make it work,” Bledsoe said. “If the three of us are executing, who’s going to stop that?” Another new face of the Cats that’s helped Liggins along is assistant coach Rod Strickland. Strickland, a 17-year NBA veteran, is ninth on the NBA’s career assist list. Better yet, Strickland had a 2.8:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in his career. Liggins struggled in that aspect last year, and he now has someone to teach him who won’t just tell Liggins to hold on to the ball, but will speak from experience on how to do it. “He’s my type of coach. I want to learn a lot from him,” Liggins said. “I get tips and pointers from him. I remember seeing him play just a little bit. I remember how good he is with the ball.” Most of all, if Liggins wants to put last season behind him, he’ll have to prove he’s grown up. He’ll have to prove he can weather adversity, because if he doesn’t, Cal has Wall and Bledsoe eager to play as many minutes as possible. So far, Calipari has been impressed with Liggins. He said former UK head coach Joe B. Hall recently visited a practice. Hall told Calipari that Liggins was the most improved player on the team. Calipari said Liggins is working hard, doing well in school and arriving on time where he needs to be (another documented problem last year). As a result, basketball should become more about playing the game for Liggins and less about worrying about everything else. Had Gillispie’s services been retained, one of his biggest recruiting gets would have come and gone, a one-year bust. Instead, Liggins has a chance to make an impact on what he called “a special year.” “We have power forwards who play like guards,” Liggins said. “I don’t know how it’ll end up, but we have a chance to make it something pretty special.” No matter how UK finishes in March (or April), let’s hope Liggins goes home happier than last time. James Pennington is a journalism senior. E-mail jpennington@kykernel.com.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009 | PAGE A5

DUNLAP Continued from page A4 transition from high school to college is the tempo,” Pillow said. “Vic did a really good job in getting (Henderson and Cole) ready, they made the transition a lot smoother than most people do.” Dunlap mentored Cole in individual workouts and team practices; Cole said she has been appreciative of Dunlap’s helpfulness and availability, while she still transitions into college life. Cole added that Dunlap will point out any mistakes she’s making in practices that might have gone unnoticed by the coaches. Dunlap’s offseason preparation has not strictly been limited to off-the-court training, as Dunlap looks to improve on last season’s domi-

COACHING Continued from page A4 downs in their careers, and both will likely be relegated to a bench role this season after starting last year. All that turmoil can be a bit overwhelming at times, but both players said they just tried to roll with the punches and stay positive. “It's definitely not planned,” Harris said. “Especially when you sign for a coach that you feel like you want to spend all your years with, you get a change of coach and you kind of don't

nance in major statistical categories. Ball handling and free-throw shooting are areas she said she could use improvement. She shot a paltry 55.6 percent from the foul line last season. “I’ve been working on my shooting, period,” Dunlap said. “I know it has been hard times for me at the free-throw line.” If Dunlap could improve her free-throw shooting to anywhere between 65 and 70 percent her game would be “transformed,” Mitchell said, alluding to the fact that she would become a complete offensive threat. Even with Dunlap’s current woes at the line, Pillow already believes Dunlap can compete against anyone, not just in the Southeastern Conference, but also the NCAA. Pillow also joked that at least Dunlap’s free-throw shooting was not as bad as Shaquille O’Neal’s and that no team would adopt a “hack-a-Vic” strategy of intentionally fouling Dunlap. Having improved in each of her two seasons statistically, Dunlap will look to improve again this year. The best news for Dunlap is how acclimatized she has become to her role as a leader for UK, which should play some role in determining how successful the Cats are this year. “If you’re a leader on the team, you can’t just worry about yourself,” Dunlap said. “You have to worry about your teammates and what they’re doing, and make sure their mindset is right.”

know what to do. You don't know about the new coach that's coming in, you don't know anything about his style or what he likes and doesn't like.”

“You don’t know about the new coach that’s coming in...”

RAMON HARRIS

Senior guard

It's not all bad, though. After going through all that side by side, the two have

formed a unique bond. “We are roommates, so I guess that'll make us even closer,” Stevenson said. “Closer than I want to be, I guess. I have to hear him snore, and I'm sure he says the same thing about me if I fall asleep first.” Neither player wanted to discuss some of the differences between the three coaches. While playing for three coaches has been trying at times, it's also given both players a special opportunity. “It's just great because you can learn from each of the coaches,” Stevenson said. “They all have different styles.”


PAGE A6 | Wednesday, October 28, 2009

UK Hoops looks to avoid injuries By Nick Craddock sports@kykernel.com

The UK women’s basketball team faced an ailment much worse than the H1N1 virus last year: the injury bug. Sometimes injuries, along with suspensions, dwindled the Cats’ roster so much toward the end of the season that UK was forced to dress just seven players in their Feb. 22 contest against Louisiana State. A small bench often leads to difficulties when dealing with foul trouble and fatigue, something UK head coach Matthew Mitchell is well aware of. “It gives you the ability to do some things when you have a deeper roster,” Mitchell said. “You can play a little more up-tempo, and when you add talent, you can do some things offensively that we were challenged to do last year, like shooting the perimeter shot.” If there’s one group of players the Cats can’t afford injuries to this season, it’s the frontcourt players. Currently, UK has Victoria Dunlap, Anna Cole, Brittany Henderson and guard/forward hy-

brid Lydia Watkins as their potential low post players. An injury to one of these four could wreck the team’s rotation and ultimately hinder the team’s ability to open up shots for the outside players. Dunlap believes a healthy frontcourt will enhance the chances of a dangerous offense. “Who’s going to want to guard a 6-(foot)-7 girl (Cole) in the paint and want to deal with people on the outside?” Dunlap said. Ironically, some players on last season’s roster stayed healthy despite the fact they were the most unlikely candidates to do so because of their history of injuries. Mitchell said everyone on the roster this year is “in good shape right now” and ready to get play started. Mitchell said injuries are not a valid excuse for UK’s 16-16 record last season, but that having healthy players, and more of them, obviously increases UK’s chances of winning this year. “You hope to have good luck with injuries and we try to prepare for injuries through our strength and conditioning

STAFF FILE PHOTO

Junior guard Amber Smith played last season after suffering a knee injury in the previous season.

program,” Mitchell said. “Then we just have to go out and work hard every day and see how it all turns out.”

PHOTO BY ED MATTHEWS | STAFF

UK head coach John Calipari addresses the crowd at Rupp Arena during Big Blue Madness on Oct. 16. Calipari said he would take talent over experience every time.


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