We can't judge UK by exhibition, but we can try

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistNovember 3, 2009 

You can't really tell anything. Remember that. Remind yourself. You can't tell anything.

Not in a college basketball exhibition with a (very talented) major college team against an NAIA squad of uncertain pedigree.

Especially not when the major college program is in the first game of a brand-new coaching regime.

Ah, but making judgments out of games like Kentucky's 74-38 exhibition victory over Campbellsville is irresistible.

So let's not fight it.

Box score

With Jodie Meeks in the play-for-pay, Kentucky needs Darnell Dodson.

In the first half, UK hit one shot from outside the paint. The junior-college transfer buried a three. In the second half, Kentucky hit two treys. One came from Dodson.

The 6-foot-7 sophomore (with a team-high 19 points) plays with what used to be described as a "scorer's mentality."

On this roster, it's needed.

As a team, Kentucky is looo-ooooooo-nnnng.

When Campbellsville tried to advance the ball into the lane, the smallish Tigers were trapped in a prison of engulfing arms.

In the first half, the Tigers' shot chart looked like an adult theater district: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.

Poor Campbellsville. Hit three of 25 shots in half one.

"They blocked a lot of shots," said Campbellsville star center Nestor Colmenares. "They are very good and very big."

Said Campbellsville forward Joe Robinson: "They are all freakish athletes."

Even allowing for the fact that the foe was a smallish (one starter taller than 6-4) NAIA squad, UK has a chance to be a lock-down defensive team.

Decked out in a gray sweat suit on the Kentucky bench while serving the first game of his NCAA-mandated two-contest suspension, John Wall appeared to be enthusiastic in his cheerleader role.

Which shouldn't be a surprise.

Everyone at UK whom I've spoken to who has had any personal interaction with Wall has said the same thing: What a nice kid Wall is.

With Wall away, the Bledsoe got to play.

Kentucky's other ballyhooed freshman point guard, Eric Bledsoe, had a night (the first of two) to be the guy who supplied the 'wow' moments.

He didn't disappoint.

My favorites:

1. When the long-armed 6-1 guard roared in from the side and blocked an attempted layup by Campbellsville's Caleb Harris.

2. A hanging layup in the final minute of the first half, when Bledsoe split two defenders, stayed in the air, and got the ball in the basket with a dispsy-doo flip.

It's gonna be a blast to see him and Wall play together.

The dribble-drive motion offense is very much a work in progress (which it should be in November of the first year it's being run).

Too many guys driving with no intention of actually getting to the basket was the verdict of John Calipari.

It will be interesting to see whether Patrick Patterson has the skills to thrive on the perimeter in the dribble-drive.

On the day he was named a first-team pre-season All-American by the Associated Press, Patterson's two baskets were both dunks.

He doesn't have the hype of some of Kentucky's other freshmen, but I really like Daniel Orton.

Monday night, the big man from Oklahoma City claimed a team-high seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

Orton just carries himself like a guy who knows how to play.

Late in games, you have got to get the ball to Randall Cobb. (Oops, wrong sport. Sometimes it's hard to make a seamless transition between concurrent seasons).

In the course of one game, I went from feeling sorry for Perry Stevenson to feeling good for him.

The 6-9 senior, a personal favorite for his wry sense of humor, never budged from the Kentucky bench in the first 33 minutes of Monday's game.

That can't be easy for a guy who has been a key contributor on the past two UK teams.

Yet when he got in for the final six minutes, Stevenson was stellar.

His final line was 11 points and two rebounds. He went hard to the basket. Even hit the other Kentucky second-half three-pointer.

Said Calipari: "He hadn't earned the right in practice to play in the first half. But he didn't pout when he got in, and he did things to earn the right to be part of the (playing) rotation the next time."

Of course, off a game like Monday's, you really can't tell anything.

But it sure is fun rendering judgments, anyway.

Reach Mark Story at (859) 231-3230, (800) 950-6397, Ext. 3230, or at mstory@herald-leader.com.

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