kentucky basketball

College keeps Patrick Patterson at UK

Patterson wants degree, a jump shot

jtipton@herald-leader.comMay 12, 2009 

When Patrick Patterson told his mother he had decided to return to Kentucky rather than keep his name in this year's NBA Draft, she cried.

"Because of the way he said it," Tywanna Patterson said on Monday.

At a news conference UK called for Patterson and his parents to talk about the decision, she found it difficult to put in words why she cried.

"Only a mom would know," she said after pause. "It's a mom thing. It's just a mom-and-son thing.

"The way he looked at me and the way he said it, I knew it was the right thing to do. I knew he meant it."

As Patterson explained it, he simply wanted to be a UK student and basketball player more than he wanted to be in the NBA. He believed he'd be selected somewhere between the 14th and 20th picks in the NBA's June draft. "In that mid-section," he said before adding, "but guaranteed first round."

Yet, Patterson not only decided to return to UK for his junior season. He made the decision before even working out for a single NBA team, without talking to a single NBA player or official. To borrow the popular vernacular, this testing of the water didn't even dampen a toe.

"Because I knew in my heart I wanted to come back," he said.

Patterson had set up a couple workouts. But in his mind, those would be a pointless exercise.

"Because I knew I wanted to come back," he said. "I knew what I needed to work on. I knew by me going out there (and working out for NBA teams), I'd be wasting their time and the coach's time and the people working me out, their time."

His parents noted an adverse impact had Patterson worked out for NBA teams. His father, Buster, spoke of the added pressure to stay in the draft and go against his true desire should Patterson do well.

His mother, Tywanna, took the opposite track. "He didn't want to waste their time when his heart wasn't in it," she said. "He might not have a good workout. They could pick up his heart wasn't in it."

Patterson acknowledged a change of heart from when he first entered the draft. At least part of him originally wanted to play in the NBA next season. "I could be in the first round, possibly lotto," he said. "I wanted to go out there."

Then he thought about what such a move would mean. He would have to delay, at best, the goal of getting a degree, which he can attain in Agricultural Communications next spring. Only two cousins in his extended family have college degrees, he said.

He'd also forfeit a chance to play with a Kentucky team heavily fortified with ballyhooed recruits.

"All the weapons we have coming in, that helped out a lot, as well," Patterson said of the decision-making process. "The caliber of team we have next year (can) compete for a national championship, hopefully."

Patterson also thought about what it might mean playing for new UK coach John Calipari, who has developed several players for the NBA and has experienced the pro game as a head coach and assistant.

In his heart, Patterson apparently did not feel ready to play in the NBA. He called playing for Calipari "a big thing" to get ready for the pros. NBA big men are not simply low-post power players. Many a 7-footer also has face-the-basket skills.

At UK, a jump shot by Patterson has been a novelty. He was a low-post power player, which Calipari has said he will continue to be, at least at crunch time.

"I knew I won't be able to do that" exclusively as a NBA player, Patterson said.

Patterson's mother summed it up by saying, "He felt he wasn't ready. His game wasn't ready. And he wanted Coach Cal to develop his game."

Calipari chose to let Patterson and his parents answer questions on Monday. The UK coach plans a news conference on Wednesday.

Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart applauded the decision. "We're thrilled that Patrick's coming back," he said after a UK Athletics Association Board of Directors meeting. "It's great for Kentucky basketball. I'm hopeful he'll get to experience post-season play. I'm hopeful that he'll have a chance to see what it feels like to make a deep run into the NCAA and experience that before he goes to the NBA."

Patterson, a 1,000-point scorer in two seasons for Kentucky, dismissed money as a factor. He expressed confidence that NBA money will be there in the future. Although he conceded that injuries (he had ankle surgery after his freshman season) had played on his mind.

"Just play basketball," he said. "Don't worry about getting hurt. It won't happen, hopefully."

As if to emphasize how little money played a role in the decision, Patterson and his father joked about the car UK's present and now future star drives — a 1997 Grand Cherokee that Buster passed down to Patrick.

A window is cracked. A back door is broke. So are the windshield wipers. The dome light flickers.

"I'm driving pretty much a piece-of-crap car," Patterson said. "I'm pretty much like every other college student. The only difference is I play basketball."

Patterson spoke without any whine in his voice. Since he's making the payments, Buster said he drives the family's newer car. As for Patrick's, his father said, "It still goes faster than his feet."

Play sounded at the heart of Patterson's decision. He talked about how much he liked playing college basketball and living as a college student.

It was important to him to "still be a teenager," Patterson said. " ... Not being worried about the business world. Not being worried about being alone out there by myself. Being able to come back to the University of Kentucky and the friendly and family environment we have here."

For now, Patterson feels better suited for the college game and college life. It's an assessment his father applauded.

"The NBA, that's no baby's game," Buster Patterson said. "It's a grown man's game. He can't be a college kid playing in a grown man's game in the NBA.

"Yeah, there's money and fame. But it's a job. You can't be a kid at the next level. This level, you've got people coming at you having love for you. At the next level, everybody wants something."

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