Patterson staying put

jtipton@herald-leader.comMay 9, 2009 

Citing the chance to play for a national championship-caliber team next season and graduate next spring, big man Patrick Patterson has decided to withdraw his name from the 2009 NBA Draft.

The University of Kentucky made Patterson's intentions known Friday afternoon, leaving teammate Jodie Meeks as the only Wildcats player in the NBA Draft.

Meeks' father acknowledged his surprise that Patterson withdrew from the draft.

"If it's the right thing for him and his family, I'm happy for him," Orestes Meeks said. "My deal is more surprise than anything else. He couldn't have done any workouts (for NBA teams) because the workouts haven't started yet."

His son won't begin workouts for NBA teams for more than a week, the elder Meeks said. Meeks' decision to stay in the draft or return to Kentucky would come after the workouts.

"He's just starting the process," Orestes Meeks said. "There's no update because nothing has happened yet."

Meeks, who led UK and the Southeastern Conference in scoring last season, is one of about 50 players to be invited to the NBA's Pre-Draft Camp in Chicago later this month.

When asked to put that invitation in perspective, NBA consultant Chris Ekstrand said, "The draft has 60 picks. Draw your own conclusions."

The elder Meeks noted that Patterson's return enhances UK's attraction for Jodie Meeks.

"I think it'll be a very big tug," Orestes Meeks said. "He knows how good they'll be. They'll be extremely good."

Patterson, a 6-foot-9 forward, led the SEC and ranked 11th in the country in field goal percentage (60.3 percent) last season. He was one of the league's most productive players.

"I have the chance to graduate in three years, which is important to me and my family," Patterson said in a statement released by UK. "I want to help Kentucky compete for a national title, and even more than that win its eighth national championship. I'm also really excited about playing for Coach Cal and developing my game in the dribble-drive offense."

UK's first-year coach, John Calipari, expressed happiness with getting to coach Patterson next season.

"In the month that I've been at Kentucky, I've been blown away by Patrick Patterson," Calipari said in a UK news release. "He is one of the nicest individuals I've met and one of the fiercest competitors that I've been around. I'm thrilled I get to coach him next year."

As for the curious timing of Patterson's withdrawal before working out for teams, Ekstrand speculated that Patterson could have learned already where he projected in the draft. The NBA's Undergraduate Advisory Committee could have given Patterson an estimate by now on where he might be drafted, Ekstrand said.

Earlier this spring, Calipari spoke of Patterson being able to make himself a lottery pick in the 2010 NBA Draft if he returned to Kentucky next season. That supported the general view of Patterson being taken in the second half of the first round at the earliest.

UK plans to make Patterson and Calipari available to answer media questions on Monday.

Patterson was the only player in the SEC to rank in the top five in scoring (17.9 ppg) and rebounding (9.3 rpg). Patterson also led the league in double-doubles with 15, the eighth most in a single season in UK history.

Dick Vitale, ESPN's Hall of Fame commentator on college basketball, saw Patterson's return as making Kentucky a "legit top-10, top-15 team" next season.

Vitale noted that UK remains in contention for point guard John Wall, generally considered the nation's top high school prospect. Plus, Meeks could return.

"If they get John Wall and Jodie Meeks comes back, they'll be ready to take on the Atlanta Hawks," Vitale said. "Never mind the NCAA title. They'll be going for the NBA title."

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